Cougars ready for MWC Championship

The Cougars travel to San Deigo, California Friday for the MWC Cross Country Championships. The event will be held at Morley Field in Balboa Park at 9 a.m. Saturday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah (October, 27, 2004) -- The men and women's cross country teams gear up for the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships this weekend, in San Diego, California.

The 10th ranked men look to reclaim the conference title from the Air Force Academy, as the 13th ranked women look to win their 17th straight conference title.

Prior to last year's finish, the men had won three conference titles in a row, but a gutsy and determined Cadet team swept the title from underneath their feet as the Cougars came in a disappointing second.

"The Cadets will be gunning for us," men's coach Ed Eyestone said. "They got us last year and they beat us at the Notre Dame Invitational, but things are different now we're a much healthier and deeper team then we were then. It's going to be a great race."

As for the women, they will be in a situation they've become used to being in the last 16 years, which is defending off a pack of hungry and eager runners who want a taste of the conference title.

Colorado State has been the runner-up to the Cougars for quite some time and women's coach Patrick Shane feels the battle for first will come between the two teams.

"CSU and ourselves will be the two teams competing for the conference title," said Shane. "Their coaches are probably telling their athletes, this is the year, and so I anticipate and expect a strong race from CSU."

Running strong and picking up the reins of leadership has been senior Laura Turner. Turner has competed in two races this year and in those races, she has placed fourth overall and has twice been named MWC Athlete of the Week.

"Laura right now is running really strong," noted Shane. "She has the best conference time this year in both the 5,000m and the 6,000m. She'll definitely challenge for the overall title."

A runner, who has made a name for himself this year, is Josh Rohatinsky. The sophomore has been unbelievable this season as he's won three overall events and was named the MWC Athlete of the Week for his performance at the Notre Dame Invitational.

"Josh is a competitor and he continues to get stronger as the season moves on," added Eyestone. "It will be a battle up front for the overall title."

Both Shane and Eyestone noted that several runners in both the men and women's races will compete for the overall title. Shane couldn't recall the last time one of his athletes hadn't placed first at the meet and Eyestone mentioned that New Mexico's, Matt Gonzalez will also push for the men's overall champion.

But Eyestone said he has an athlete who isn't afraid of a little competition.

"Josh isn't a guy who will let him go," said Eyestone. "It will be fun to watch the battle and see who will claim the individual title."

The Cougars will travel to San Diego on Friday in hopes of returning with an overall sweep at conference.

"Our guys' expectations are high and they're training towards that end," Eyestone said.

Shane noted that he has been telling his athletes to not be afraid of blowing up. In other words, stop running conservatively.

"You can't be afraid to blow up," Shane said. "We need the attitude and courage of a champion and right now we're running conservatively. This is a chance for us to make a statement and prepare ourselves for the following weeks ahead."

The event will be at Morley Field in Balboa Park at 9 a.m. Saturday.