The No. 14 BYU men's team rose victorious at the NCAA Mountain Regional, beating highly ranked teams Colorado, New Mexico and Northern Arizona.
ALBUQUERQUE -- Not satisfied with second-place finishes from the conference meet Oct. 31, the BYU men’s and women’s cross country teams came up big at the NCAA Mountain Regional as the men took first place and the women arrived in third.
With their performances, both teams will advance to run at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.
The No. 14 men’s team scored 54 points in a 10K event to overcome No. 5 Colorado (55), No. 12 New Mexico (77) and No. 4 Northern Arizona (86) among others to earn the victory in a tough NCAA Mountain region.
“It was a spectacular outing for us today,” said BYU men’s cross country head coach Ed Eyestone. “We beat some very good, quality programs and didn’t run ourselves into the ground. I think we were motivated to come back into competition and show that we can run on a national level.”
Sophomore Miles Batty once again led the Cougars as he finished in second place in 30:03.5. Northern Arizona runner David McNeill won the race soundly in 29:51. Batty was able to beat New Mexico’s Jacob Kirwa, the Mountain West Conference victor, by 14 seconds. The three emerged from the crowd early on, but Kirwa slowly faltered and McNeill managed to get away from Batty with three quarters of a mile left.
Seniors Richard Nelson and Brandon Hebbert proved their leadership with ninth and 12th-place finishes, respectively, before sophomore Tommy Gruenewald and junior Nate Ogden solidified the one-point victory by arriving in their respective 15th and 16th positions.
Alden Bahr (20th) and Ryan Merriman (43rd) also competed well for the Cougars.
“I’m very proud of our guys to come out and run hard,” Eyestone said. “More importantly, we feel that we still have some energy and that we can have a repeat performance at nationals.”
No. 22 BYU women
The No. 22 BYU women also had a positive experience in Albuquerque to take third place in a very tough field. The Cougars scored 114 points and lost only to No. 6 Colorado (48) and No. 8 Texas Tech (53), but overcame MWC champion No. 20 New Mexico (120) and No. 32 UTEP (116), among others.
“We feel very good about the race,” said BYU women’s cross country head coach Patrick Shane. “The girls ran great and we showed why we’re a top program.”
BYU junior Cecily Lemmon-Lew came in second place overall with a 6K time of 20:41.1 behind arguably the country’s top runner, Colorado’s Jenny Barringer (20:29). Sophomore Katy Andrews also had a good showing with a 12th-place finish and senior Angela Wagner arrived third for the team in 18th place.
“All of us feel good about our performance and that we were ‘with it’ emotionally to do well,” Lemmon-Lew said. “We had a lot of fun out there and ran well as a team. Personally, it was a good opportunity for me to see where I am against some of the country’s best runners. I think we showed that we belong and will do well at nationals.”
Freshman Nicole Nielsen (34) and redshirt freshman Sarah Edwards (48) scored the Cougars’ remaining points. Sophomore Rachel Lange and redshirt freshman Ashlee Thomas also had strong performances to contribute to the team.
“Cecily hung in there with the leaders and Katy had a phenomenal race,” Shane said. “Wagner was also fantastic and I think our team was ready to go out and compete. When we’re doing well, we can compete with a lot of teams. We hope to earn a top-20 finish at nationals.”
Coach Shane plans to use junior Whitney McDonald, who has sat out all of the races this season with an injury but has been cleared to compete in Terre Haute on Monday, Nov. 23.
The 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships can be seen on Versus.