(Photo by Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah - The No. 8 BYU men's cross country team finished sixth on Saturday at the 2012 NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. Jared Ward and Tylor Thatcher each had top-40 individual finishes, which earned them All-America honors.
Oklahoma State won the national championship with 72 points while Wisconsin, Colorado and Northern Arizona filled out the rest of the podium. Florida State finished fifth with 238 points and BYU grabbed the sixth spot with 245.
"We were led again by Jared Ward, who had a really gutsy performance out front for us," head coach Ed Eyestone said. "I think finishing sixth was an excellent performance for us. Any time you have two All-Americans you'll usually finish in the top 10 and that's what happened for us today."
Ward and Thatcher led the way for the Cougars, finishing 14th and 34th overall, respectively. It was the first time either runner finished as an All-American in cross country. Ward ran the 10K race in 29:33.4 and Thatcher finished with a time of 29:57.9.
"From the start of the race I put myself in a pack I thought I should be able to run with and just ran as hard as I could," Ward said. "I wouldn't say I had a golden day today, but I got through it. To be rewarded with an All-America finish, I can go home with my head held high and proud to be on this team."
Conner Peloquin (30:36.8) finished in 84th place, Thomas Gruenewald (30:38.6) finished 91st, and Steve Flint (30:48.7) finished 106th for BYU. Senior co-captain and 2011 All-American Rex Shields submitted a time of 31:30.9 while Jason Witt completed the race in 32:56.6.
With Shields struggling with plantar fasciitis for most of the season and Witt battling a case of strep throat earlier in the week, Eyestone said he knew his team would have to step up in order to compete with the top programs in the country.
"It was a tough blow for us, but that happens," Eyestone said. "I was very pleased though with the five scoring runners that we had because from very early on it looked like the guys who were sick or hurt weren't going to be back, and so our five other runners really had to step up and they came through for us today."
Early in the race the Cougars were down as far as 14th place, but battled back during the last half to pick up the sixth-place finish.
"I thought our guys rose to the occasion," Eyestone said. "Conner (Peloquin) and Tommy (Gruenewald) were back pretty far to start the race and they just progressively moved their way through. Towards the end Steve Flint must have passed 20 guys over the last mile or so and that made a big difference for us."
BYU's sixth-place finish marks the fourth time the program has finished in the top ten at the NCAA Cross Country Championships under Eyestone. In 2011, the Cougars made the podium with a fourth-place finish. BYU finished ninth in 2008 and fifth in 2004.
Complete results for the 2012 NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships.