Six All-Americans and seven conference champions return from the 1999 team that finished last season in eighth place at the outdoor nationals in Boise.
The Cougars leave the WAC with nine conference titles in as many attempts and 17 consecutive conference titles overall. The 2000 season should hold much of the same, as BYU opens competition in the eight-team Mountain West Conference.
"We're a different team than a year ago," said Coach Craig Poole. "The distance events will continue to be our strength, but we lost some very special people from a good team last season. They will be hard to replace." Among those graduating were All-Americans Julie Bennion (distance medley, 400m IH), Alicia Brimhall (heptathlon), Treva Bryant (800m), Maggie Chan (5000m), and Emily Nay (5000m, 10000m).
An infusion of talent from the national champion women's cross country team will give Poole unparalleled depth in the longer races. All six of BYU's returning All-Americans are distance runners, including Tara Haynes, Elizabeth Jackson, Lindsay Jones, Tara Rohatinsky, Sharolyn Shields and Melanie Steere.
Talented women have the distance events covered again in 2000, led by NCAA runner-up Tara Rohatinsky in the 10,000 meters and Marty Hernandez, who finished fifth in that event at outdoor nationals. Elizabeth Jackson placed eighth in the 5,000 meters last year, and Sharolyn Shields will look to continue her success in the 3,000 meters, where she finished third and fourth in indoor and outdoor, respectively, in 1999. Senior Lindsay Jones, an NCAA qualifier in the 1,500 meters last year, will bring valuable experience to the event. The distance talent makes the Cougars a national favorite for the distance medley this year. Last season's medley team took nearly 40 seconds off the old school record.
The sprinters and hurdlers will benefit from some of Utah's fastest prep talent in the 2000 recruiting class. Spanish Fork's Miriam Glenn, the Utah state champ in the 100 meter hurdles, Murray's Jennifer Holman, the 300 meter hurdles state champ, and American Fork's Misty Jorgensen, defending champion in the 100- and 200 meters, will bring immediate relief. Sophomore Danna Barker, last season's fastest Cougar, will rejoin the team for outdoors after sustaining a minor injury. German native Kirstin Bolm enters the season as the conference favorite in the short hurdles, where she dominated last year in qualifying for the NCAAs.
The throwers will get much-needed assistance from sophomore transfer Becky Beachler. While at the University of Nebraska, Beachler earned All-American status at the 1999 NCAA Indoor Nationals. Two freshmen should make an immediate impact for the Cougars in the field events. Danielle Bousha, a two-time Oregon state champion in the pole vault, joins sophomore Sara Higham, who took 13th in outdoor last year. Dominique Green, a shot-put and hammer specialist, joins the Cougars as a high school All-American and state record holder.
WAC Champions Kirstin Bolm and Kristel Berendsen look to dominate the jumping events for BYU in 2000. Both qualified for nationals in 1999, as Bolm finished an impressive sixth at indoor nationals in the long jump, and Berendsen finished 10th in the triple jump at outdoor nationals. Berendsen also added three inches to her old school record in the triple jump last season, leaping 43-10.5 at the WAC Championship meet. She will be joined by two-time WAC triple jump champion Kathy Sorenson, recently returned from an LDS mission to Russia. Junior high jumper Jeana McDowell returns from a redshirt year, joining Ricks transfer Annalee Carter in the event. Carter finished second at the NJCAA championship meet in 1999 at Ricks.
The challenge of replacing departing All-American heptathlete Alicia Brimhall will fall on the shoulders of junior M.E. Clayton. Anna-Lee Walcott, a freshman recruit from Trinidad, is a promising talent with international experience.
"It's always hard to compare one team with another until it's all said and done, but I can say that my expectations for this year's squad aren't any less than what I had for last year," said Poole. "This team is young and they're extremely excited. The way I see it, only good things can happen."