The BYU women's cross country team once again proved it is one of the nation's elite cross country programs in the 2000 season. The Cougars ran their way to a second-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championship in Ames, Iowa.
The national runner-up finish marks the fourth consecutive season the women's team has finished in the top two, including two national championships in that time, and the sixth straight year the team has ended the season among the top five teams in the nation.
Coming into the 2000 season as the defending national champions, BYU was not among the early favorites to win the national title. The team had lost three All-Americans from the national championship team, and was ranked sixth nationally in preseason polls. The Cougars had a solid group of runners returning to the team which included All-Americans Sharolyn Shields-Thayer and Tara Northcutt.
During the season the BYU team placed itself among the favorites to vie for the national championship, running away with victories in every regular-season meet to which the team sent their top runners. Included in those victories was a win at the Pre-national Invitational over Stanford and Colorado, two teams picked as early favorites to contend for the national title.
The victory at the Pre-National Invitational propelled the Cougars to the number one ranking in the nation going into the Mountain West Conference Championships. BYU came into the conference championship looking to keep their stranglehold on the conference title. The Cougars were the inaugural Mountain West Conference champions in 1999. Including the 1999 Mountain West Conference title, the BYU women's cross country team had claimed the conference championship for twelve consecutive years, and had won 17 of the past 18 conference titles for which the team had competed.
The team ran that record to thirteen straight conference crowns with its second consecutive Mountain West Conference title. Lindsey Thomsen led the Cougars, winning the individual conference championship. As a team, the Cougars just missed getting their second straight score of 15 points, considered a perfect score in the sport, at the Mountain West Conference championship by finishing with 16 points. The second-place Colorado State Rams finished with a team score of 55 points.
In addition to the team and individual conference crowns, BYU runners also received many conference awards for individual performances at the meet. The team finished with eight All-Mountain West Conference performers. Thomsen, Sarah Ellett, Northcutt, Shields-Thayer and Katie Martin were all named to the first team while Nan Evans, Amy Bair and Sherida Rogers were named second team All-MWC. Thomsen was named Mountain West Conference Athlete of the Year and Katie Martin received Freshman of the Year honors.
Ten BYU runners were also named Academic All-MWC. Those receiving academic honors were Thomsen, Ellett, Northcutt, Shields-Thayer, Martin, Bair Tara Haynes, Jamie Philburn, Rogers, and Melanie Steere.
Following the title, the top-ranked Cougars headed to the Mountain Regional seeking to defend the title against a field once again consisting of a Colorado team led by Kara Wheeler, which came into the regional ranked fifth in the nation.
The Cougars ran a good race, but Colorado took home the regional crown, defeating the Cougars by twelve points to claim the victory. The second-place finish, however, was good enough for the Cougars to receive an automatic berth to the national tournament and gave the team a chance to defend their national title.
A wind chill factor of almost 20 degrees below zero in Ames, Iowa slowed one of BYU's top runners and allowed Colorado to thwart the Cougars in their attempt to capture a second consecutive national championship, and what would have been the third in a four year period.
Wheeler once again led the way for the Buffaloes, winning the individual title at the national championship. Two Cougars received All-America honors for their finish at the meet. Steere claimed her first-ever cross country All-America citation with a 17th place finish and Tara Northcutt finished just behind Steere, in 18th place, to claim All-America honors for the second consecutive year.
While the BYU women's cross country team was disappointed to not repeat as national champions, the runner-up finish showed the BYU women's cross country team would continue to be a national power in the sport for years to come.