(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
On the heels of a No. 25 finish at the 2007 National Championships, the BYU women’s cross country team looks remain on the national scene.
With the absence of last year’s frontrunners, the team looks to its returning athletes and nine incoming freshmen for strong leadership and performances.
“It will take commitment to get each girl to do what she needs to and follow the expectations that are set for her,” said Patrick Shane, head coach of the BYU women’s cross country team. “If they do that, we can be a very good team this year.”
Several of the athletes had a successful season last year and will be essential in helping lead the team to success in 2008.
Coach Shane hopes to see the team get back on top of the conference, regaining the title it lost for the first time in league history.
“Every athlete coming back from the team is eager to regain our position,” said Shane. “That’s one of the things we’d like to turn around this year.”
In having a young team, Shane looks to the experience and skills of many returning runners to lead the 2008 team to great heights.
“These girls will help in leadership because they are more experienced,” said Shane. “We lost some depth last year, but many strong girls return. With experience, these girls set the standard for success.”
Angela Wagner, who earned All-America track honors, finished first in the NCAA West Regionals in the steeplechase, was ranked fourth nationally and won the Mountain West Conference outdoor steeplechase title, is prepared to contribute her dedication and expertise.
“Angela is a great leader,” said Shane. “The girls can look to her for an example of hard work and success. She puts her best into everything she does.”
Another key returning athlete is Cecily Lemmon, who was the team’s top finisher at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. She placed fifth in the 5K at the MWC Indoor Championships, placed at Regionals and finished fourth at the MWC Outdoor Championships in the 10K.
“Cecily made a big jump from last year,” said Shane. “I’m excited to see her step up and perform well this season.”
Also returning is senior Amy Layne who placed ninth at the 5K BYU Autumn Classic and competed in both the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships and National Championships.
“Amy is a great runner and a great strength to our team,” said Shane. “She’s a good role model for the girls to have.”
Several newcomers have joined the team and have the opportunity to make a strong impact in the incoming season. Katy Andrews, a freshman from Encinitas, Calif., will have the opportunity to set the example for some of the other freshmen girls making the transition from high school to collegiate competition.
“I’m counting on Katy to step up and help fill the gaps that remain from some of last year’s graduates,” said Shane. “She’s made that transition in readiness and will really be able to contribute.”
Andrews is qualified for this responsibility. She lettered in cross country and track all four years in high school, was the All-Academic Team Captain in cross country, a three-year state qualifier and an All-American Team Scholar Athlete.
Local freshman Stephanie Jensen lettered all four years of high school in both cross country and track and was MVP in both her junior and senior years, and is another newcomer expected to have a great season.
“She’s a good athlete and will make a solid transition this year,” said Shane. “She brings a lot of talent to the team.”
Also expected to help fill the gap from last season are Lacey Cramer from Cedar Hills, Utah, and Rachel Lange from La Crescenta, Calif.; both have strong cross country experience and strength.
“These girls will really help make the team strong,” said Shane. “We need to make sure these freshmen step up and perform and these girls will get the job done.”
Despite having a young team, coach Shane looks forward to seeing the results of a great recruiting year for the Cougars.
“Any number of these young women can step up and excel,” said Shane. “They all have the ability to make improvements and really bring strength to our team.”
The Cougars look forward to a schedule that will be challenging and push them to continually train hard this season, proving their talent and drive.
“We’ve got a lot of good races this year that we look forward to and expect to do well in,” said Shane.
The team began training with a camp in Park City, Utah, August 25th. This prepared them for the home opener, the BYU Autumn Classic, on the BYU cross country course.
“The Autumn Classic was a great way to start the season at home, on familiar ground and surrounded by cheering fans,” said Shane.
After breaking for a week, the Cougars head to Eagle, Idaho on September 20 to compete in the Bob Firman Invitational, followed by the Stanford Invitational the following weekend, September 27, in Palo Alto, Calif. and the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Eugene, Ore. on October 4.
“It’s really important that we perform well in these mid-season meets,” said Shane. “In order to put us where we want to be going into the last few meets, we need to stay focused and get the job done.”
Pre Nationals will be held October 18 in Terre Haute, Ind., followed by two of the most important races for the Cougars, the MWC Championships, November 1, in San Diego, Calif., and the NCAA Regionals two weeks later in Ft. Collins, Colo., November 15.
“These races determine our entrance to the NCAA Championships,” said Shane. “We train all year for these.”
The NCAA Championships will be held in Terre Haute, Ind., November 24, where the Cougars plan to return. Coach Shane expects great things from his team.
“BYU has one of the longest streaks of appearances at the national championships in cross country,” said Shane. “We’ve been there more consecutively than many teams and we intend to keep it that way.”