(Photo by Dan Byers)
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Freshman Natalie Shields led the BYU women’s cross country team to a seventh-place finish at the Mountain Region Championships on a clear day this weekend in Colorado.
“Clearly, we have a young team that has a lot of potential,” head coach Patrick Shane said. “We ran a good race, but it is going to take experience to help us get to where we need to be. Shields ran a solid race, and Sowards ran one of the best races of her life.”
Shields finished first for BYU, 14th overall and second among freshmen overall in 21:04.1. Shields was followed by Lindsey Sowards Nielson (21:18.0), who finished second for BYU and 25th overall. Michaelanne Laurent (21:45.0) finished third for BYU and 46th overall.
Rachel Stewart (22:04.9) and Laura Young (22:14.9) finished out BYU’s top five finishing 60th and 65th overall, respectively.
Due to their top-25 finish, Shields and Nielson earned first-team all-region honors.
Because the Cougars did not finish in the top two as a team, they did not qualify for the national meet. Shields was the only member of the team to come close to qualifying for Nationals individually, but narrowly missed the cutoff.
Despite not finishing the season where he and his team wanted, Shane looks forward to the next few years to build his young athletes into the types of runners he knows they can become.
“Looking forward, we need to stay healthy,” Shane said. “We have two runners on our team who did not compete at all this year due to injury. They are just as good of runners as Natalie [Shields] is. Because we had the best recruiting class we’ve ever had, we are only going to get better. Over the next few years, this team is going to take on an identity they didn’t have this year.”
Full results from the Mountain Region Championships can be found here.