Josh Rohatinsky will be the frontrunner for the men's cross country team this season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- With four of the team's top seven athletes returning for the 2006 season, the men's cross country team shows potential for another successful year at conference and national levels.
"We have quite a few great athletes who are returning and several of the new guys should step up and contribute as well," Coach Ed Eyestone said. "We're excited to see what can happen this season."
Josh Rohatinsky returns as BYU's top competitor for his final year of collegiate competition. In 2005, Rohatinsky had a sixth-place finish at nationals to receive
his second All-American honor and looks to improve upon that finish. The All-American also picked up the individual title and was named the Mountain West Conference Athlete of the Year at the MWC Cross Country Championships.
"As talent-laden as the national meets are, Rohatinsky finished very well in last year's championships," Eyestone said. "He will hopefully be in a position to make a run for the title in his senior campaign. He is definitely a strong challenger."
Junior Chandler Goodwin also had a strong performance on the national level in 2005, earning his first All-American honor. Eyestone said Goodwin has the potential to be in the top-15, if not the top-10 at the national championships.
Also on top of the team rankings is junior Dustin Bybee. A first-team MWC honoree, Bybee is a strong competitor and Eyestone said he hopes to get him to peak in time for nationals.
"He was on the top all year long (last year) and we just want him to finish strong," Eyestone said. "We'll do what needs to be done to have him racing at his best in November."
One loss for the team was the graduation of steeplechase national champion Josh McAdams. That void may be filled with athletes such as redshirt freshmen and track 1,500-meter All-American Kyle Perry.
"Loosing McAdams was a hard hit, but I think Kyle will step up and has the potential of running at least as well or even better than McAdams did," Eyestone said.
The lone freshman to compete for the men at cross country nationals last year, distance medley relay All-American Jacob Gustafsson is among the top competitors returning for another season. As the 2005 MWC Freshman of the Year, Gustafsson is expected to compete at an even higher level this season.
Several recent recruits may have the opportunity to be an immediate force in the upcoming season. Another Rohatinsky will join the squad in Josh's younger sibling, Jared. Also on the list of top newcomers is Texas-native Jacob Cosby.
"Jared Rohatinsky and Jacob Cosby have some very stellar track credentials," Eyestone said. "If they are both healthy, they'll be able to make a great impact for the team."
Rich Nelson, a Cougar teammate in 2003, recently returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will join the team once again.
Additional newcomers and returned missionaries should add to the team's performance as a whole.
While the 2006 MWC Championships and NCAA Championships will be the most competitive events of the season, several other meets will act as stepping-stones towards a favorable outcome at those culminating events.
One addition to the schedule is a weekend of competition at the University of Oregon. The team will have the opportunity to go up against many West Region and other highly competitive teams and size up the strengths of the other programs.
The Pre Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind., provides an occasion for nearly every collegiate cross country team in the nation to run the national course. This will be a great chance to view any competition that has potential of returning for the national championships.
As the 2005 MWC Champions, the Cougars will compete for their fifth championship title in six years. Hosted by the University of Utah, the championships will offer somewhat of a home court advantage. BYU's main competition at the championships will be Air Force and Colorado State University.
The Mountain Region boasts some of the deepest competition in the nation with
powerhouses such as the University of Colorado and BYU. This competition will make for what should be an intense Regional Championships, ending in an opportunity for a select few teams to compete at the culminating event of the season -- The NCAA championships.
The Cougars will try to improve on a 13th-place finish at nationals last year. The team, which finished fifth in 2004, hopes for their best finish under Coach Eyestone.
"The national championship was quite possibly our worst race of the 2005 season," Eyestone said. "We'd like to turn that around, and we have the personnel to do it. We've just got to finish strong. We'd love a top-four finish and that's what we'll work towards."