The BYU men’s and women’s cross country teams open the 2016 season as favorites in the West Coast Conference Coaches Poll, with the men’s tabbed to place first and the women picked to finish second.
The No. 13 BYU men’s team received 64 points, including the maximum number of first-place votes. They are seeded ahead of Portland and Gonzaga in second and third places, respectively.
“People are definitely remembering the dominant performance we had at our conference meet last year,” men's head coach Ed Eyestone said. "We are definitely up to the task in terms of defending our title. I imagine it will be a close contest, particlarly between ourselves, Portland and Gonzaga."
The 2016 All-WCC Men’s Cross Country Preseason Team featured five Cougars out of the 10 total athletes, including senior captains Mitchell Briggs and Nicolas Montanez. Junior Connor McMillan and sophomores Dallin Farnsworth and Dallin Taylor were also named to the team.
The men’s team finished in first place in the 2015 WCC Cross Country Championships with help from all five athletes. All were named first-team All-WCC selections. Farnsworth was additionally named WCC Freshman of the Year for 2015. Montanez and Farnsworth finished in second and third places, respectively, behind former Cougar Aaron Fletcher. Taylor, McMillan and Briggs placed fifth, sixth and eighth overall at the championships.
"I think we will also see some changeup, and we'll see some people who were not ranked among the preseason top 10 who will be in the top during the season," Eyestone said. "As nice as it is to recognize those who performed well last year, I think we'll have a lot of people step up who will represent us well."
The No. 27 BYU women’s team was predicted to place second, just behind San Francisco, and garnered 70 points in the preseason polling.
“Our girls are pretty hungry, coming in,” women's head coach Diljeet Taylor said. "This year the WCC is stacked, and it is going to be a tough conference, but it is only going to make us stronger for regionals and nationals. We are looking forward to the competition."
Three BYU runners from the women’s team were placed on the 2016 All-WCC Cross Country Preseason Team. Seniors Yesenia Silva and Natalie Shields-Connolly are joined by sophomore Alice Jensen on the preseason team.
The women’s team finished in second place at the 2015 WCC Cross Country Championships after losing a tiebreaker to Gonzaga. Jensen finished in 10th place, Shields-Connolly in 11th and Silva in 12th place overall. Jensen earned first team All-WCC honors following the championships and Shields-Connolly was named to the WCC All-Academic team.
"I am hoping for those three to be our leaders this season," Coach Taylor said. "They have some good experience, but they will also have some company from some of the other girls on the team who are stepping up and doing some big things. We look forward to having a pretty strong group and see how it shakes out."
For the full men’s release, click here.
For the full women’s release, click here.