Cougar women captured their second National Championship in three years
For the second time in three years, the BYU women's cross-country team ran away with the national title. Their performance at the 1999 NCAA Cross Country Championships was dominant. Just one year after being edged by Villanova in the closest 1-2-3 finish in NCAA history, the Cougars placed three runners in the top twenty to score an impressive 53-point victory.
The first two runners for Arkansas finished in 2nd and 3rd place in the team scoring, and a pair from Stanford took the 4 and 5 positions, but with BYU's team total of 72 points, the race between the two perennial powers was for second place. Arkansas finished with 125 points to hold off the Cardinal, who finished with 127.
With the win, BYU solidified its position as one of the premiere women's cross country programs in the country. The Cougars have finished in the top four at the national championships in each of the last five years, and have recorded top-ten finishes in eight of the last ten years. They are also the only BYU team to ever win two national titles.
Senior Elizabeth Jackson led the way for the Cougars, crossing the finish line in just under seventeen minutes. Her time of 16:59.20 was good for an 11th place overall finish and eight points in the team scoring. Then came the pack.
Coming into the race, the plan was to run together, and that is exactly what the Cougars did. The next four BYU finishers after Jackson crossed the line within six seconds of each other. Senior Kara Ormond (17:11.70) and sophomore Tara Rohatinsky (17:13.30) finished together in 16th and 17th place overall. Just seconds behind them, junior Sharolyn Shields (17:16.00) and sophomore Laura Heiner (17:17.70) rounded out the scoring for the team.
All five scorers for the Cougars earned All-America honors. Jackson became the first athlete in BYU history to be named All-American in cross country all four years.
BYU won the national championship in convincing fashion, but it should not have come as much of a surprise considering their performances leading up to the final race.
The inaugural Mountain West Conference Championships were held at the East Bay Golf Course in Provo, and the Cougars were determined to make an impressive showing in their own backyard. BYU extended its winning streak to 12 straight conference crowns, taking the top five places to record a perfect score of 15. Jackson finished first in a time of 17:16.2, edging out Ormond, who finished at 17:17.4. Rohatinsky (17:31.0), Heiner (17:35.6) and Shields (17:36.4) followed close behind to rap up the victory for the Cougars.
BYU continued its winning ways in the Mountain Region Championships. University of Colorado junior Kara Wheeler was the individual favorite coming into the race, and she won with a time of 16:39.40. Shortly after, the Cougar Pride came through. All five scorers for BYU crossed the finish line within four seconds of each other. Shields was the first Cougar finisher, with a time of 17:03.73. She was followed by Jackson (17:05.01), senior Susan Taylor (17:05.95), Rohatinsky (17:07.07) and Ormond (17:07.65).
In 1998, the BYU women won every race they ran in except one--the national championship. In 1999, coach Patrick Shane orchestrated a system of running and resting that produced a team that peaked at exactly the right time. Though they never finished lower than third place, the Cougars didn't win a meet until the MWC Championships. From there it was simply a matter of fine tuning the machine.
In addition to their national championship trophy, the 1999 team earned several other honors for their performances. After earning Coach of the Year honors six times in the WAC, Coach Shane received the first-ever MWC Coach of the Year award. Senior Elizabeth Jackson was named MWC Athlete of the Year, and Sarah Ellett took Freshman of the Year honors. Members of the All-MWC first team included Elizabeth Jackson, Kara Ormond, Tara Rohatinsky, Sharolyn Shields, Laura Heiner, Sarah Ellett, Lindsay Nadauld, Sherida Rogers, and Tara Haynes. In addition, Heiner and Shields were each selected once as MWC Athlete of the Week. Ellett, Haynes, Heiner, Ormond, Rohatinsky and Shields also earned Academic All-MWC honors for their performance in the classroom.