Here Come the Cougars

Laura Turner has the chance to become only the second Cougar to win four All-Amercian cross country citations. The Cougars travel on Friday, Nov. 19th to the NCAA Cross Country Championships. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The final test for the Cougars comes this weekend as they travel to Terre Haute, Indiana for the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

The No. 8 ranked men's team is coming off a great performance at the NCAA Mt. Region event, where they cruised to a second place finish behind No. 4 ranked Colorado.

"We got through regionals and that's what we wanted to do," men's coach Ed Eyestone said. "We got a few aches and pains, but the guys are hungry and excited to surprise some people this weekend."

The women also are coming off a second place finish at the region event in Fort Collins, Colorado, where they finished just 22 points behind No. 3 ranked Colorado.

"I think we're going to peak at the right time," women's coach Patrick Shane said. "I'm pleased with our race last week and that encourages me."

Shane has won four NCAA national titles in seven years, with his most recent coming in 2002. Last year at the NCAA Championships, Shane's team fell just eight points behind the defending national champions Stanford Cardinal. Although it is unlikely this year's team may win their fifth national title, Shane has been known to have his team peak at the right moment.

"We have a history of running well at the end of the year," added Shane.

In the last seven years, Shane's team has finished either one or two in the country and has finished in the top ten 15 times.

"There are two or three teams that are outstanding," Shane said. "If we run a good team race we could finish in the middle of the top ten."

Along with the women, the men have paved their way to the NCAA Championships this year, with the mind set on one goal and one goal only, to finish in the top four or five in the country.

"It's time to bring the big guns," noted Eyestone referring to the race and not some AK-47 assault rifle. "One guy had us finishing 11th and that's good, because it will fire our guys up."

The men are looking to put an assault on the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course this weekend as they compete in 10K event. Although this will be the only time the men will compete in two consecutive 10K events, they're a team that's not afraid to open it up and see what they can do.

"The main thing for the guys this week has been recovery and getting their minds right,"

Eyestone said. "It's going to take a great day for us to be where we want to be."

The runner to keep your eye on for the men is Josh Rohatinsky. The sophomore has been the leader and front runner for the men and has the chance to compete for the overall title.

"Josh has got a chance to be in the top ten," Eyestone said. "If it comes down the stretch and he's right there in the top ten, he has a chance to win. He's not afraid and he's got tremendous talent."

Others to watch for the men will be Brian Lindsay, Dustin Bybee and Nathan Robison. Robison earned himself his first cross country All-American citation by finishing 29th overall at last year's event. These three athletes along with Rohatinsky have a chance to be All-Americans; an honor that's only given to the top 35 finishers.

As for the women, they've been led by three-time All-American Laura Turner. The senior knows a little bit about winning. As a sophomore in 1999, she helped guide the women to their second cross country national championship and looks to become only the second cross country athlete at BYU to win four All-American citations. The only Cougar to win four All-American cross country awards was Elizabeth Jackson from 1996 to 1999.

"Laura has a great chance to be in the top ten," Shane said. "She's a veteran and knows what to expect at nationals."

Others to watch are Rena Chesser, Heidi Magill and Amber Harper. Each of these athletes has a chance to be an All-American and finish in the top 35.

"Everyone is healthy and is ready to roll," said Shane.

The event begins on Monday, November 22, with the women's 6K race starting at 11:00 a.m. followed by the men's 10K race at 12:15 p.m.