(Photo by BYU Photo)
The BYU men’s and women’s cross country teams are gearing up for the West Coast Conference Championships which will take place in San Diego, California, at Mission Bay Park on Friday.
The No. 4-ranked men’s team looks to claim the conference title for the second straight year and the fourth time in six years. Head coach Ed Eyestone is excited to witness the competition this weekend and hopefully watch his squad take home yet another championship.
“I am looking forward to seeing a good, solid performance from our guys,” Coach Eyestone said. “We know that we will have a fight on our hands, and so we are not taking anything for granted. Having said that, I think that if we run our best, we should be able to defend the conference title.”
Top in-conference competition includes consistently-ranked Portland, who currently sits in 12th place nationally. The Pilots finished in second place last year behind BYU at the WCC Championships and are also looking to claim the title this weekend.
“Portland is a very good team,” coach Eyestone said. “They are well-coached and they will come ready to go. We can’t just roll over and think we’re going to laugh our way through the meet. And I have sent that message to my athletes.”
The Cougars are coming off a third-place finish at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational where senior Nicolas Montanez finished ninth overall, ahead of his teammates, junior Jonathan Harper (18th) and sophomore Rory Linkletter (22nd), who all finished in the top 25 against top national competition.
As much as a team title means to his squad, however, Eyestone is hoping his team can bring home not only one but two victories this weekend.
“I’d love to win the team title, but I’d also like to win the individual title as well,” he said. “It would be nice to end the weekend with those titles.”
Nine athletes will represent the Cougars at the championships. With sophomore Dallin Farnsworth going down this past week with a season-ending stress fracture, junior Steve Morrin will suit up for the Cougars for the first time this season and look to help his team to a victory.
The women’s team enters this weekend’s championship meet toting a No. 20 national ranking, behind WCC opponents Portland (No. 8) and San Francisco (No. 13). All three teams come in as potential favorites to claim the title.
Coach Diljeet Taylor is anticipating a competitive meet between the top teams and looking for the women to reclaim the conference title since their last victory in 2014.
“This is an exciting meet,” Coach Taylor said. “This is what we have been training for all year, and our runners are ready to roll. On Friday morning, all of the teams get to line up, and the team that runs the best on that day will win the title. Simple as that. And that is what we have been training for. Both Portland and San Francisco are running very well, but I also feel very confident in our team. The girls are pretty hyped up and we are ready to put it all on the line.”
BYU finished in second place at last year’s conference championships behind Gonzaga, and most recently took in 10th place overall at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin invite two weeks ago. The Cougars are anxious to perform even better this weekend and come home with a conference championship victory.
“Training has been going really well,” Coach Taylor said. “We walked away from the Wisconsin meet very hungry, with fire in our bellies, and so that is going to contribute to our girls running with some real determination, maybe even a little chip on our shoulders. I want each of my girls to run to their potential, and if that happens, we definitely have a chance to win the title. That is the goal.”
The women’s competition will begin at 10:00 a.m. (PDT) and the men’s competition will begin at 11:00 a.m. (PDT). Both races will be livestreamed on TheW.tv. Fans can also follow along on the team's official Twitter handle, @BYUTFXC, for live updates.