PROVO, Utah—Members of the 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2002 BYU women’s cross country national championship teams were inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame Oct. 24 in a special ceremony. The inductees were also honored during halftime of the football game against Boise State Oct. 25.
Experts had picked defending champion Stanford to easily repeat as cross country champions in 1997. The media, coaches and publications all agreed Stanford was the best team. The Cardinal hadn't lost a meet in over a year.
Defying the odds, the BYU women beat Stanford 100-102, bringing home the first NCAA Championship ever won by a BYU women's team.
All-American Courtney Pugmire finished first for the Cougars, passing two competitors in the last 150 meters to place fifth in the team competition and eighth overall.
In cross country, seven runners compete for each team, with the finish of the top five runners counting toward the team score. The places taken by the five scored runners are added together and the team with the lowest combined score wins.
"I was counting places as the girls came by me," head coach Patrick Shane recalled. "And I was telling the girls that if they all held their places we'd win the national championship."
Then, in the last 100 meters of the race BYU's fifth runner, sophomore Caisa Monahan, was inadvertently tripped by another runner. With the team title on the line, the Cougars' Emily Nay came through, sprinting past Monahan to cement BYU's team score at 100 and give the Cougars the victory.
Pugmire was named WAC Runner of the Year for the second time. After the championship, Provo mayor Lewis Billings declared January 27, 1998 BYU Women's Cross Country Team Recognition Day in the city.
For the second time in three years, the BYU women's cross country team ran away with the national title. Just one year after being edged by Villanova, the Cougars placed three runners in the top 20 to score an impressive 53-point victory.
With the win, BYU solidified its position as one of the premiere women's cross country programs in the nation. A year before, the BYU women won every race they ran except the national championship. In 1999, head coach Patrick Shane orchestrated a system of running and resting that produced a team that peaked at just the right time.
Shane received the first-ever Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year award, and senior Elizabeth Jackson was named MWC Athlete of the Year. Sarah Ellett took Freshman of the Year honors. Jackson, Laura Heiner, Sharolyn Shields, Tara Rohatinksy and Kara Ormond were All-Americans.
In 2001, the BYU women's cross country team simply dominated the field on the way to their third national title in the past five years. The Cougars scored only 62 points to defeat runner-up N.C. State by 86 points, one of the largest margins of victory in NCAA history.
The win was a team effort for BYU, with three runners finishing in the top 10 and all five scoring runners finishing in the top 30.
"It is a dream come true for me to win this championship like we did," head coach Patrick Shane said. "Before the race we knew we had a good chance, but you can never expect everyone to run as well as the girls did today. You have to savor the moment because this might never happen again."
The team's third title is the most for any BYU program, moving ahead of the men's volleyball team for that distinction.
Just like its team cheer said, the BYU women's cross country team ran "as fast as Cougars" to win the 2002 NCAA 6K Cross Country Championships hosted by Indiana State University. BYU successfully defended its 2001 NCAA title with a total of 85 points. The 2002 Cougars were the first BYU team to win back-to-back national championships.
BYU collected four All-America awards after Michaela Mannova took fifth and Katie Martin took seventh in the national championship race.
The Cougars won every race that season, taking the conference title and region title on the way. At the regional meet, BYU garnered 29 points. The second-place team, Colorado, had 66 points. The team finished with three perfect scores during the season.