Cross Country Headed to Region Championships

Katy Andrews and Nicole Nielsen will compete for the Cougars at the Mountain Regional. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Head coach Patrick Shane will lead the BYU women’s cross country team to the NCAA Mountain Region meet Saturday in hopes of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA National Championships.

“We are optimistic that our team can come out and hit on all cylinders,” Shane said. “We are in one of the more competitive regions in the country and will need to run well to finish among the top four teams.”

After finishing third in the MWC Championships for the first time in school history, the BYU women’s team will enter competition Saturday ranked sixth in the Mountain Region, which features 15 teams. The top five teams the Cougars will face off against include, in order of ranking, Texas Tech, Colorado, New Mexico, Colorado State and Montana.

Senior Kate Bowen is expected to pace the Cougars throughout the race as she has all season. Cecily Lew, the second-place finisher at the 2009 Mountain Region meet, will compete for the third time in 2010 after battling injuries for most of the season.

“Kate (Bowen) has led our team all season and we expect her to do the same in this race,” Shane said. “Cecily (Lew) has also been improving since the MWC Championships and continues to move up within our team and I think she will run better than she did at conference.”

Also expected to lead BYU is sophomore Nicole Nielsen, a second-team All-MWC runner. Nielsen finished 34th last season and will look to improve on that finish. Junior Katy Andrews, a 12th place finisher in 2009, will also look to place in the BYU top-five.

The No. 15 BYU men’s cross country team will look to create a repeat of last year where it came up short against New Mexico at the MWC Championships only to defeat them at the Mountain Regional meet. While the repeat would be nice, men’s coach Ed Eyestone is just looking for solid performances to build on.

“I think we can run well enough to reach all of our goals and advance to the Championships,” Eyestone said. “We want to run solid and knowing our guys I won’t be surprised to see them finish at the top.”

In search of its first back-to-back regional title, the team will rely on a strong performance from junior Miles Batty, who finished second overall in 2009, along with quality races from senior Nate Ogden and junior Alden Bahr who finished 16th and 20th in 2009, respectively.

Batty is fresh off his win at the MWC Championships where he earned MWC Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year. He currently holds the fastest time in the MWC for the 2010 season with an 8K time of 23:42.2.

“Miles (Batty) has been big time,” Eyestone said. “The rest of the team has been able to look up to him and his consistency.”

Start time is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. MST for the women and 11:45 a.m. MST for the men. Click HERE for results after the completion of the race.