(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah -- After finishing 18th in the 2010 NCAA Championships, the BYU men's cross country team entered the 2011 season poised to make its mark again in conference, regional and national competition.
By the end of the season, the Cougar's had done just that, winning conference and regional titles and finishing fourth in the 2011 NCAA Championships.
"We really met and exceeded most of our goals for the season," head coach Ed Eyestone said. “Finishing in the top four on the podium at the national championships is equivalent to the basketball team finishing in the Final Four. It’s a really big deal and I’m really proud of the guys.”
In their first season as a part of the West Coast Conference, the men defeated the Portland Pilots, a team that had won 32-consecutive WCC championships. The Cougars finished with 25 points while Portland came in second with 32. The next closest score was San Francisco with 119. Senior Miles Batty placed first among all runners with a time of 23:47, setting a new course record. Batty's time bested the old course record of 24:20 by more than half a minute.
Aside from winning the conference title, six Cougars were named to the 2011 Men's Cross Country All-WCC Team. Batty was joined by teammates Rex Shields, Jared Ward, Alden Bahr, Tylor Thatcher and Jason Witt on the All-WCC Team and Eyestone was named the WCC Coach of the Year. Batty also ended the season with three WCC Runner of the Month awards.
At the NCAA Mountain Region Championships at East Bay Golf Course in Provo, the Cougars placed first again. With another strong individual performance, Batty led all runners in the 10k race with a time of 30:09.3.
"Our number one goal was just to take it easy and run as a team, which we did," Batty said. "It was a good result and hopefully we can recover and get ready for nationals."
The Cougars finished the race with a score of 49, edging out Colorado, which finished six points behind with 55. With respective times of 30:42.2 and 30:42.5, Shields and Ward finished eighth and ninth overall.
For the second time in three years, Coach Eyestone was named the Mountain Region Coach of the Year. Batty, meanwhile, added Mountain Region Athlete of the Year to his growing list of accolades. In addition to Batty, Shields, Ward, Witt and Curtis Carr were recognized with All-Region honors.
BYU finished its season by placing fourth at the NCAA National Championships. Batty led the way again, finishing 14th overall in the 10k race with a time of 29:40. Shields (29:52) and Ward (30:28) again came in second and third for the Cougars, finishing 22nd and 58th overall, respectively. Thatcher and Witt finished fourth and fifth, respectively for BYU and all five runners finished in the top-100 overall.
The fourth place finish at the national championship race was the Cougars' second-best team finish in school history, topped only by the 1993 team that finished second overall. With their top-25 finishes, Batty and Shields earned All-American honors from the USTFCCCA.
At the end of the season, the men's team will lose a few seniors, including All-American Batty and All-Conference honoree Bahr. In 2012, however, the team is expected to return with another strong group, led by senior All-American Shields and junior All-Regional runner Ward.