Same Race, Different Place

The BYU men's and women's teams look to defend their MWC titles on Saturday at the MWC Championships. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Wildfires in the San Diego area have forced the location of Saturday's 2007 Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships to be moved from San Diego to Albuquerque, N. M.

The event was scheduled to be at Mission Bay Park, but the fires in the area have created poor air quality. The race will instead be held at the University of New Mexico North Golf Course. The men's race will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. MST, and the women's race will follow at 11 a.m.

Despite the change of venue, both BYU teams are preparing to defend their MWC titles.

The No. 17-ranked women's team has won 24 of the last 25 conference championships, including when BYU was part of the Western Athletic Conference. The team won 19 straight championships.

Angela Wagner and Katie Bowen have proven to be the women's one-two punch this season, with both runners leading the team in various events. Wagner, a freshman from Pretoria, South Africa, led all Cougars at the BYU Autumn Classic and Pre-Nationals. Wagner earned MWC Athlete of the Week honors for her 17:51.9 5K race at the BYU Autumn Classic. Bowen, a sophomore from Alpine, Utah, led the team at the Bill Dellinger Invitation in Eugene, Ore., with a 6K time of 20:31.

With only 26 seconds separating Wagner and the rest of the team at Pre-Nationals, head coach Patrick Shane says running in a tight group will be crucial at the championships.

"The whole team has come together remarkably well," Shane said. "I'm so impressed with the strong team unity and the sense of oneness as a team this year."

Tough competition faces the Cougar women at the MWC Championships as No. 12 Colorado State is ranked above them. Colorado State is ranked No. 1 in the Mountain Region, with the Cougars following close behind in second.

"It's really a matter or resting," Shane said of the key to success against Colorado State. "We've rested a significant amount before this meet, and I think that's going to give us a boost. I'm sure Colorado State is doing the same, so it's going to be a fun race."

The men's team, ranked 26th nationally, won the past three MWC Championships, with a total of 13 in the past 20 years.

Leading the men's team are junior Stephan Shay and senior Chandler Goodwin. The two roommates have gelled since Shay transferred from Michigan State early this year. Shay's top races include second-place finishes at the BYU Autumn Classic and the Dave Murray Invitational. A MWC Player of the Week honored followed his performance at the BYU Autumn Classic. Goodwin finished 13th at the prestigious Notre Dame Invitational and eighth at the BYU Autumn Classic.

The Cougar men are ranked No. 4 in the Mountain Region, with MWC foe Air Force closely behind at the No. 6 spot.