Saturday's Mountain Regionals are the Final Warmup for Title-Hungry Cougars
PROVO, Utah (November 9) - Coming off conference championships two weeks ago, BYU's No. 3 women and No. 12 menwill race to keep their national title hopes alive at the Mountain Regionals this Saturday in Fort Collins, a meet that serves as a qualifier for the NCAA Championships Nov. 22 in Bloomington, Ind.
The best schools in the region will compete in the meet, which automatically advances the top two teams to the NCAA finals. After the automatic bids are filled from all nine regions in the country, several more at-large berths will be granted.
"It ought to be a lot of fun," says women's coach Patrick Shane. "There's really no pressure for us in this meet. I look at it only as a way to advance to nationals." The women should have no problem advancing. Their No. 3 ranking is high enough that virtually no matter how they finish at the competition they will receive a bid to the NCAA finals. No. 4 Colorado and No. 20 Northern Arizona will make things interesting on the women's side.
The women will likely send their top five finishers from the Mountain West Conference championship meet, as well as seniors Lindsay Nadauld and Susan Taylor. Kara Ormond, who finished second at the conference championships, may not be able to compete after bruising her knee in a rollerblading accident.
BYU's 12th-ranked men are a little less sure of their future going into the meet. Last year, the Cougars failed to advance out of the heavily talented district. The situation will not be much different this time around, as the men will have to compete against No. 3 Colorado, No. 14 Northern Arizona and No. 16 Weber State for a spot in the national finals.
Men's coach Sherald James acknowledges that the meet will be a real test of character for his team. "It's going to be very tough. This is the kind of meet where you feel like you're braving the unknown," said James. "The real challenge is to run fast enough to make nationals but to not spend all the energy we need for nationals just nine days later."
Another challenging wrinkle will be added for the men in this race, as the length of the competition will be extended to 10 kilometers for the first time this season. Previous races have been eight kilometers long. The Cougars, who are finally all in good health, will travel Dula Parkinson, John Hedengren, Randon Richards, Matt Poulsen, Marc Lawson, David Danley and Nate Harrison. Parkinson is returning from an illness that forced him to withdraw from the conference meet.