Kassi Andersen recieved MWC First-Team Honors and was also named MWC Runner of the Year at the MWC Championships on Oct. 28. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- A week after claiming both the men's and women's Mountain West Conference titles for the third year in a row, the BYU cross country teams will travel to Albuquerque, N.M. to compete in the Mountain Region Championship. The University of New Mexico will host the event for the first time since hosting in 2002.
The Mountain Region traditionally boasts many of America's finest distance runners and 2006 is no exception with nine nationally ranked teams among the field, battling for a place in the NCAA Championship race on Nov. 20.
"This is clearly the strongest group of teams our region has ever produced," said women's head coach Patrick Shane. "We will face some challenging competition at this particular meet."
The top two teams at each regional meet automatically qualify for nationals and the first four individuals not on a qualifying team also earn an automatic berth. As many as four teams from the Mountain Region in previous years have earned at-large bids to the NCAA Championships.
The BYU women's team is preparing to compete against eighteen other schools, four of which are ranked in the nation's top-30. No. 9 Colorado and No. 17 Texas Tech will present a challenge to the Cougars.
"Colorado always runs well at the end of the year," said Shane. "They are a talented team with five very good athletes. They are very similar to our team."
It is questionable as to whether or not Amy Fowler will compete in the race this weekend. She is suffering from an inflammation of her foot and has not run for about a week. If Fowler is unable to race, Shane is confident that his team's depth will get the job done.
Kassi Andersen, MWC Female Runner of the Year, is expected to lead the team as she has all season. Currently battling a cold, she is expected to be ready and healthy to compete.
"We have to go down there and perform well," said Shane. "We need quality races out of each athlete. They are all well rested and ready to compete."
The men's team will also face some serious competition on Saturday as it competes against teams including No. 2 Colorado and No. 4 UTEP.
"We have our work cut out for us," said head coach Ed Eyestone. "As long as everyone gets through this week okay we should be healthy and ready to compete."
Senior Josh Rohatinsky is considered one the region's top competitors. Eyestone predicts that he will be very successful.
"Josh will be racing up with the leaders," said Eyestone. "We'll be using the same strategy we used last year. He will run hard for preparation purposes, running within himself, but we don't want to jeopardize his chance at nationals."
Chandler Goodwin and Dustin Bybee will also be expected to give strong performances. Joining them, and coming off a spectacular performance at the MWC Championship, will be sophomore Kyle Perry.
"We are looking to secure third place," said Eyestone. "Going into nationals we need a lot of confidence. We plan to run hard but won't kill ourselves trying to beat the highly ranked schools."
The races will be held at the UNM Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 11. The women's 6K will begin at 10:00 a.m., followed by the men's 10K at 11:00 a.m.