BYU Women Finish Second, Men 23rd at NCAA Cross Country Championships
AMES -- Racing against freezing temperatures and a wind chill factor of nearly 20 degrees below zero, the BYU women's cross country team came up just short of their third NCAA title, finishing second to the University of Colorado at the NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa. Placing two runners in the top ten, the Buffalos finished with 117 team points to BYU's 167. Stanford was third with 198 points.
With teammate Tara Northcutt right on her heals, senior track star Melanie Steere crossed the finish line in 17th place, to earn her first cross country All-America citation. Northcutt earned All-America honors as well with an 18th-place finish.
But while several of BYU's top runners struggled to overcome the frigid conditions of the race, Colorado claimed the team title, led by a first-place finish from Kara Grgas-Wheeler.
"We were disappointed that we didn't win," said BYU coach Patrick Shane, "but we are excited that we got second place. Today Colorado was better than we were, and my compliments go to their coach and their team."
While Shane refused to use the cold weather as an excuse for not winning the meet, he admitted that the race-day conditions did play a role in the outcome.
"Wind chill affects different people in different ways," Shane said. "Unfortunately, it shut down our number one runner, and it also affected others in a negative way. But I'm proud of this team. They gave it all they had, and you can't ask for anything more."
The second-place finish for BYU is another indication of what the team has become in recent years. Over the past four years, the Cougars now claim two national titles and two runner-up finishes.
Melanie Steere (left) and Tara Northcutt placed 17th and 18th, respectively, at the NCAA Championships. (Photo by Mark Philbrick)
On the men's side, the BYU harriers finished 23rd, led by a 37th-place finish from junior John Hedengren. The team title went to a solid Arkansas squad that crossed the finish line with a mere 20-second spread between their first and fifth runners.
"Obviously we would have liked to finish the season on a higher note,"said BYU coach Ed Eyestone, whose Cougars were ranked in the top ten most of the year. "But we had a great season, and with a conference championship and a second-place regional finish, we still have a lot to be proud of."
The Cougars struggled to find their rhythm in the cold as well. But the future looks good as BYU fielded a team comprised of several underclassmen at the championship meet.
Complete results of the championship meet can be found at www.runnercard.com
1. Colorado 1, 7, 23, 38, 48 = 117
2. Brigham Young 14, 15, 32, 41, 65 = 167
3. Stanford 10, 20, 42, 59, 67 = 198
4. Boston College 12, 19, 27, 68, 88 = 214
5. Georgetown 22, 33, 52, 69, 71 = 247
6. Arizona State 4, 35, 37, 83, 107 = 266
7. Yale 24, 25, 66, 77, 93 = 285
8. Wisconsin 2, 8, 81, 82, 125 = 298
9. Providence College 28, 46, 54, 73, 109 = 310
10. Kansas State 5, 11, 39, 103, 167 = 325
17. Melanie Steere 21:12
18. Tara Northcutt 21:13
39. Sharolyn Shields-Thayer 21:27
55. Katie Martin 21:36
94. Sarah Ellett 21:57
150. Lindsey Thomsen 22:24
152. Nan Evans 22:25
1. Arkansas 10, 12, 14, 20, 27 = 83
2. Colorado 2, 15, 21, 22, 34 = 94
3. Providence College 1, 11, 16, 45, 48 = 121
4. Stanford 9, 18, 37, 41, 44 = 149
5. Wisconsin 7, 17, 24, 56, 63 = 167
6. Villanova 8, 23, 30, 38, 82 = 181
7. Northern Arizona 25, 47, 49, 65, 83 = 269
7. Georgetown 4, 19, 52, 94, 100 = 269
9. Notre Dame 6, 28, 32, 77, 133 = 276
10. William & Mary 26, 57, 61, 106, 113 = 363
37. John Hedengren 31:05
131. Lewis Jones 31:57
149. Andy Carman 32:12
164. Dula Parkinson 32:18
190. Golden Harper 32:30
232. Ben Wynn 33:21
248. Josh Rohatinsky 34:03
The BYU women's cross country team will be looking for their third national championship in four years, and the men's squad will be in the running for a top-five finish as the Cougars travel to Ames, Iowa for the NCAA Championships on Monday.
The BYU women's team slipped to No. 3 in the final national poll of the season, after taking second to Colorado in the Mountain Regionals. The Buffalos took over the No. 1 spot, followed by Stanford at No 2.
On the men's side, No. 7 BYU earned a return trip to the championship meet with a second-place finish in a strong field at the Mountain Regional. In addition to the two automatic qualifying teams, the region will be sending four at-large qualifiers to the national competition.
Coach Patrick Shane Considers the Title Run
"It's going to be a great matchup," Shane said, looking ahead to the championship meet. "There are at least three teams that could easily win it; it's really that close."
Shane believes Colorado's Kara Wheeler is arguably the best runner in the country this year, and Stanford brings a very talented team into the race. He also sees Wisconsin as a legitimate contender if they can put together a solid team race. But despite his reluctance to admit it, Shane's BYU team is in a good position to defend its title from a year ago.
"We have yet to talk about winning the national championship," Shane said. "Everyone realizes the possibility is there, but we have chosen not to dwell on it as a goal. We'll take care of the day-to-day work, and the national championship will take care of itself."
Coach Ed Eyestone Comments on the Men's Race
First-year coach Ed Eyestone, who won an individual cross country national championship while running for BYU, is confident his team will make a strong showing at the NCAA meet.
"We definitely want to improve on what last year's team did," Eyestone said. "Right now we have good depth, we've worked hard, and we're really starting to gel and come together as a team."
Eyestone feels the key to this race for BYU will be the team's ability to stay together and run as a pack. The Cougars have two All-American contenders in junior John Hedengren and freshman Josh Rohatinsky. But without a single senior on the team, BYU will need a group effort from a strong core of underclassmen if the Cougars are to finish with the frontrunners.
"We are a predominantly young team," Eyestone admits, "but we have seven guys who, if they put it together, can make a legitimate run at the top five. If our three through seven runners stay together, we'll be in good position."
The BYU men are making their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships. After making it to the finals last year, the Cougars struggled through illness to finish in 30th place. This year's team is poised to make a strong showing at the NCAA meet and erase any bad memories from a year ago. The Cougars have been ranked in the top ten in the country since jumping into the poll at No. 9 after the first week of the season.
The BYU women's team features two returning All-Americans in senior Sharolyn Shields-Thayer and junior Tara Northcutt. Shields-Thayer finished 23rd at last year's NCAA meet, and also recorded a 13th-place finish at the 1998 Championships. Northcutt was the third BYU finisher in 1999, crossing the line in 17th place. In addition, senior Tara Haynes was the fourth BYU finisher on the 1997 team that won the national championship, and sophomore Sarah Ellett was the sixth Cougar to finish in last year's meet.
BYU was ranked No. 1 for four weeks this year, but in the end all the numbers up until this point won't make much of a difference in the outcome of the final race.
" The only ranking that matters will be Monday at about 11:30," said coach Shane, "and we're excited to find out how good we are."
The 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships will be run at the Iowa State University Cross Country Course in Ames, Iowa. Start time for the women's 6,000-meter race is 11:00 a.m. with the men's 10,000-meter race to follow at 12:15 p.m.