BYU women’s cross country dominates OSU Invitational, men finish third
STILLWATER, Okla. – Whittni Orton’s individual title led BYU women’s cross country to a decisive first-place finish while Conner Mantz and Casey Clinger finished 2-3 to help the men’s team take third as both teams opened the 2020-21 cross country season at the OSU Invitational on the OSU Cross Country Course.
The BYU women’s squad had six runners place in the top 10 to cruise to a first-place finish with a score of 22 points. Southern Utah took second with 50 points while Oklahoma State (95 points), Kansas State (109 points) and UTEP (124 points) finished 3-5.
The BYU men’s team scored 59 points to finish third place behind Northern Arizona (36 points) and Oklahoma State (42 points). Southern Utah (87 points) and Kansas State (162 points) finished behind the Cougars to round out the top 5 in the team standings.
“I was really pleased with the effort given today by the women,” BYU associate director of cross country and track and field Diljeet Taylor said. “Our main goal coming into the meet was to get our feet on the grass and get familiar with it. It is a grueling course and very tough. We were very conservative for a majority of the race, running most of it together. Being the first cross country meet, you just never know what to expect so I was pleased with the effort everyone showed today.”
Orton was first across the finish line for the women and finished the 6K in 20:27.8, nearly 11 seconds ahead of the second-place runner. The senior All-American led the field for almost the entirety of the race to win her fourth individual cross country title of her career.
“Whittni is extremely fit right now,” Taylor said. “We knew after the cross country season and indoor track season she had last year that she was going to come back this season and have big goals. Today was just focusing on staying patient and she did that for a majority of the race, so her time isn’t a true attest of where she is at. I loved her effort and the grit she showed at the end.”
Junior Aubrey Frentheway took third place (21:00.01) while true freshman Lexy Halladay (21:15.4) and senior Anna Camp-Bennett (21:27.4) went 6-7, respectively. Senior Sara Musselman placed 9th (21:32.5) and junior Sophie Lasswell finished 10th (21:47.1) to round out the six Cougars in the top 10.
True freshmen Anna Martin (21:50.4) and Simone Plourde (22:02.7) crossed the finish line next for the Cougars, finishing 13th and 16th, respectively. The entire BYU women’s squad finished in the top 25 with senior Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes finishing 21st (22:16.8) and senior Kate Hunter placing 24th (22:21.8).
“Going forward, we’ll focus on continuing to build strength and emphasize on speed,” Taylor said. “It’s a long time until the NCAA Championships so we’ll pocket what we learned today about the difficulty of this course. We have time before the championships and that’s the beauty of it. It’s nice to have a little more time to develop them and give them more confidence before we come back on March 15.”
“We went up against four teams that will be very relevant in the NCAA Cross Country Championships this March,” BYU head coach Ed Eyestone said. “I thought we did a very good job, particularly Casey and Conner. They put themselves up there right where we expected them to be. There wasn’t really a question on how they were going to race, and they ran very, very well.”
After leading the BYU men’s team to its first national title in program history in 2019, Mantz opened the 2020-21 season picking up right where he left off. The All-American came just short of catching NAU’s Luis Grijalva (23:30.2) down the final stretch to finish in second place (23:31.4). In Clinger’s first collegiate race since returning from this two-year mission for The Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the 2017 All-American had a solid performance finishing right after Mantz to take third place (23:38.7).
All-American Clayson Shumway ran unattached and finished eighth overall (24:01.5). While not scoring for the team this meet, the senior is expected to race with the team in future competitions starting in January.
“With Clayson factored in, it would have been a much closer contest,” Eyestone said. “Without Clayson in the mix and with Brandon Garnica and Matt Owens not 100 percent, I think we’re going to be in a good place come the NCAA Championships based on today’s performance.
Sophomore Zack Erickson made his cross country debut for the Cougars and had a strong showing, finishing 16th overall (24:19.4). Seniors Kramer Morton (24:38.8) and Connor Weaver (24:50.2) rounded out the first five for the Cougars while placing 26th and 30th overall, respectively.
“Based off of workouts, I thought Zack Ericksen was going to have a good day and he certainly did as our three. We know we’ve got a solid three with Mantz, Clinger and Shumway. With Zack Ericksen, we now know we’ve got a solid four. It’s going to be up to the other guys to close the gap and get a fifth man in there. I’m feeling confident that when we’re 100 percent, we’re going to be very good.”
Juniors Zac Jacklin (24:53.3) and Brandon Garnica (24:54.0) crossed next for BYU and finishing 34-35. Freshman Aidan Troutner placed 41st (25:02.9) in his first collegiate race while junior Adam Wood (25:29.8) and senior Matt Owens (25:33.0) finished 50-51 overall.
“Overall, we did what we wanted to do,” Eyestone said. “I was happy for the guys to see the course and run the course. However, this also just shows that just because we’re the defending national champs it’s not going to be a walk in the park This will allow us to get some work in and get prepared for the national meet.”
With no other meets currently scheduled in the fall, BYU cross country will continue to practice and prepare for the spring cross country season that begins on January 23 and concludes with the NCAA Championships on March 15 at the OSU Cross Country Course.