PROVO, Utah -- The No. 7 BYU men’s cross country team looks to defend its regional crown Friday at 1 p.m. MST at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Fort Collins, Colo. The Cougars won the Mountain Region Championship last year on their way to a fourth place finish at nationals.
Among the competing schools is No. 2 Colorado, who moved into second place in the rankings after a solid showing at the Pre-Nationals race in October.
“Colorado has shown it’s one of the top teams in the country,” head coach Ed Eyestone said. “This will be a very competitive race since there are some really strong teams in the region.”
The top two teams at this weekend’s race will win automatic bids to the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Kent. on Nov. 17. The third and fourth place teams will have a shot to compete at the national meet depending on the points they’ve accumulated throughout the season.
Since the Cougars have performed well over the course of the season, they have a good shot at qualifying for the NCAA Championships even without a win this weekend. Besides Colorado and BYU, No. 16 New Mexico and No. 18 Northern Arizona University are teams that will likely put up a challenge for the top spot in the region.
BYU could receive a boost this week if senior co-captain Rex Shields is able to race. Shields has missed the past two meets for the Cougars as he’s battled sickness and minor injury.
“Rex has been a little snake bitten this year, and any time you lose an All-American, those are pretty big shoes to fill,” Eyestone said. “But he’s doing better, he’s had some good workouts this last week so we’re hoping he’ll be fine for the race on Friday.”
Eyestone said it’s not exactly requisite for Shields to race this week, however, since the Cougars have a strong chance to advance to the NCAA Championships as long as they finish in the top four at the regional meet. The teams who advance to the national meet will only have eight days to prepare for the NCAA Championship race after the regional meet.
“We want to run a controlled and consistent race with our guys without doing too much damage,” Eyestone said. “That’s the biggest factor for us - figuring out how hard we can run and still recover. We’re going to try and run a smart race that will give us some confidence going into nationals.”
Results for the meet will be posted at the cross country home page as soon as they are available.