(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The beginning of the 2004 season dealt a card the women's cross country team didn't expect. During Labor Day weekend the Cougars' top-returning runner and All-American Kassi Andersen was hit by a truck while biking. Andersen was out for the cross country and track seasons.
"We struggled early in the year," Shane said. "But we can be grateful for a lot of things. It's times like these that remind you of what you should be grateful for."
Despite losing their top runner, the pack held tight and finished strong. The Cougars placed first, second and eighth in the MWC, NCAA Mt. Regional and NCAA National Championships respectively.
BYU kicked off the season with a perfect 15 point win at the BYU Alumni Invitational. Anne Heiner finished the 5K event first in 18:58.3.
On the following week, the Cougars looked impressive in front of over 3,000 fans at the BYU Autumn Classic. Coach Shane asked the women to stay together for the first mile at a six minute mile pace. Senior Rena Chesser led the pack thereafter placing first in the 5K with a time of 17:55.1.
That same week the Cougars were ranked as the third best women's cross country team in division one of the NCAA.
On October 1, BYU headed east to the Great American Festival in Charlotte, N.C. Laura Turner made an impressive showing in her first race of the season. Turner finished first for the Cougars and fourth overall in the 6k event. She was named MWC Women's Cross Country Athlete of the Week. Chesser had a second-place finish for the Cougars and Freshman Heidi Magill finished third in her first collegiate race.
The Cougars achieved a perfect 15 points overall at the Pre Mountain West Conference Championships, in San Diego, Calif. Julie Cameron won the overall title as she finished the 6K race in 23:11. Following Cameron's lead was Carolyn Quebe who finished second as teammate Sara Ingebretsen took home third place honors.
At the Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., the Cougars faced the other national contenders for the first time. Once again, Turner pounded it out for the Cougars as she took fourth overall and helped her team take fourth-place honors in the 6K race.
This year marked the 17th straight conference championship for the Cougars as they swept the Mountain West Conference defeating Colorado State by 35 points in San Diego, Calif. Turner finished first in the 6K race and following her in second and third were teammates Chesser and Magill. Turner was honored for her efforts as she took home the MWC Women's Athlete of the Year award. Magill was honored as MWC Women's Freshman of the Year, an award BYU has won two years in a row. Along with the conference title, the women placed six athletes on the All-MWC teams. Turner, Chesser and Magill earned first-team All-MWC honors as Amber Harper, Jami Caldwell and Cameron earned second-team All-MWC honors.
Just a week later, BYU ran in the NCAA Mt. Regionals took home second place, following 22 points behind Colorado State, in Fort Collins, Colo. Once again, Turner led the Cougars as she finished the 6K event in third place overall. Following closely behind her were Magill and Chesser, rounding out six and seventh overall. The same six Cougars who were honored as All-MWC honors, Turner, Magill, Chesser, Harper, Cameron and Caldwell, each earned NCAA Mt. Region honors.
The team returned to Terrre Haute, Ind., for the final meet of the year. The Cougars took home an eighth place finish in the 6K race. Turner, who placed fourth overall, became the second women in BYU cross country's history to earn four All-American citations. Despite the women's eighth place finish, Shane is proud of the way his team handled the adversity and obstacles that came before them early in the season.
"I'm pleased with our eighth place finish," Shane said. "It's been an unusual year; it's been a faith builder."
This finish gives the women 20 top ten finishes in a national competition, seven of which have been in the top two.