Cougar Women Dominate on Way to Third National Title
The BYU women's cross country team simply dominated the field on the way to their third national title in the past five years. The Cougars scored only 62 points to defeat runner-up N.C. State by 86 points, one of the largest winning margin in NCAA history.
The win was a team effort for BYU, with three runners finishing in the top ten and all five scoring runners finishing in the to 30 to earn All-America honors. The top five runners were only separated by 30 seconds as they came across the line.
"It is a dream come true for me to win this championship like we did," head coach Patrick Shane said. "Before the race we knew we had a good chance but you can never expect everyone to run as well as the girls did today. You have to savor the moment because this might never happen again."
Michaela Manova, a transfer from New Orleans, was impressive for BYU after a somewhat dismal performance at the regional meet. She was the first Cougar to finish, covering the 6K course in 20:42 for fifth place.
"I ran my race today," Manova said. "Before last week I rested a lot and I am a person that needs to stay busy. So this week instead of resting I found things to do with myself."
Following right behind Manova was Jessie Kindschi, the other transfer student on this year's team. Kindschi finished seventh overall to earn her first All-America citation at the Division I level. Prior to coming to BYU Kindschi competed at South Dakota State, a Division II school.
"I was hoping for a top 25 finish but I saw Michaela and knew I would prefer to run with a teammate," Kindschi said. "I felt really good and the pace wasn't too fast so I just stayed with her the whole race."
It wasn't just the scoring runners who contributed to the separation for BYU. The team's sixth and seventh runners finished ahead of the fourth runners on every other team. Had the Cougars counted every runner on the team, the team still would have won the race by 21 points.
"Our girls were simply stronger than their competitors and that's a credit to Jay Omer and the sport-specific weight training program he wrote for us," Shane said. "You also have to give credit to our sports psychologist, Ron Chamberlain, for preparing the team mentally with the imagery and to our trainer, Kevin Morris, for having us healthy coming in."
The lone senior on the squad this year, Tara Northcutt, was the third BYU runner to cross the line, finishing ninth overall to earn her third All-American citation for cross country.
"I wanted to leave the team with a great taste for winning and the team did that," Northcutt said. "It's a rush and a relief to have won so well in the last race of your career."
The team's third title is the most for any BYU program, moving the program ahead of men's volleyball for that distinction.
Head Coach Patrick Shane
"You have to savor the moment after a win like this because you never know when it might happen again."
"The difference for us today was our sports psychologist, Ron Chamberlain, and his imagery that helped the team realize their potential mentally as well as Kevin Morris, our athletic trainer, who made sure we were healthy coming in so we could have a chance. You also have to credit Jay Omer. He set up a sport-specific weight training program for our team that is absolutely the best I've ever seen. Our girls were simply stronger than their competitors."
"In all the contests I've personally seen no team has ever realized their potential to this extent. It was the best overall team performance I've ever seen."
"This is a dream come true. Before the race you know you have a good chance at winning the national title but just don't know what to expect."
"It's hard to explain how good it feels to win this race. It was great to be associated with this team."
"Coach McGown (the men's volleyball coach), the ball is back in your court now."
"I ran my race today. This time I ran the way I felt. Before last week I rested a lot and I am a person that needs to stay busy. So instead of resting I kept myself busy this week"
"I was hoping to finish in the top 25. I saw Michaela and knew I would rather run with a teammate so I tried to stay with her. I felt really good and the pace was not too fast so I just kept going."
"I knew I was well rested coming in and I was relaxed at the start. I trusted the coach and the team and knew something good would happen."
"It's a rush and a relief. I wanted to leave the team with a great taste for winning and the team did that. It's nice to have it over and to have finished so well."
"It's easier to run with your teammates than with some other runner because you know your teammates want to stay with you and the other runners don't."
"We knew we were prepared physically and mentally because we have trained all season. Everybody did it today."
"What happened in this race was amazing. Usually your sixth and seventh runners are back a ways but ours weren't."
"The race went very fast at the start and we planned to stay together so we were looking all around for each other."
"We did today what we do in practice every day."
NCAA Championships Top Five Team Finishers
1. BYU 62
2. N.C. State 148
3. Georgetown 180
4. Arizona 194
5. Stanford 206
NCAA Championships Top Ten Individual Finishers
1. Tara Chaplin Arizona 20:24
2. Renee Metivier Georgia Tech 20:31
3. Lauren Fleshman Stanford 20:35
4. Kristin Price N.C. State 20:36
5. Michaela Manova Brigham Young 20:42
6. Jennifer Owens Virginia 20:43
7. Jessie Kindschi Brigham Young 20:49
8. Molly Austin Colorado 20:51
9. Tara Northcutt Brigham Young 20:55
10. Maggie Guiney Boston College 20:56
Other BYU Finishers
23. Lindsey Thomsen 21:11
24. Sarah Taylor 21:12
36. Nan Evans 21:27
45. Amy Bair 21:34
Fresh off a second and third-place finish, respectively, at the NCAA Mountain Regional in Provo last weekend, BYU's No. 2 women's and No. 13 men's cross country teams travel to Greenville, S.C. with high hopes.
The women's team looks to better their third to outdo last year's runner-up finish by winning their third national title in the last five years.
The women are led by two-time All-American Tara Northcutt, who has been the Cougars top finisher in every race she has run this season. Northcutt is the anchor in a talented group of runners that look to unseed top-ranked Stanford.
The Cardinal is the only team BYU has not beaten this season, finishing two points behind Stanford at the Pre-National Invitational in October.
"On paper Stanford seems to have t he edge and that is why they are ranked first," women's head coach Patrick Shane said. "We are expecting to challenge them for a national championship along with several other top schools, including Georgetown and N.C. State."
N.C. State beat the Cougars earlier in the season at the Great American Festival in Charlotte, N.C. BYU avenged that loss at the Pre-National meet when N.C. State finished third.
"It's going to be a close race and it really comes down to who runs well Monday afternoon," Shane said. "If we can have a solid race from each of our athletes, we have a good shot at winning."
On the men's side, All-American John Hedengren takes the No. 13 BYU men into the race lookingto make a splash on the national scene.
Men's head coach Ed Eyestone, in his second year as head coach, expects the team to improve on last year's 23rd-place finish at nationals.
"The guys and I started the season thinking we had a legitimate shot at the top ten," Eyestone said. "We're currently ranked 13th but if we can keep our spread between 40 and 45 seconds, we should be able to reach our goal.
The races will be run Monday, with the men's 10K scheduled to start at 9 a.m. (MDT) and the women's 6K race to follow at 10:15 a.m. (MDT).