Spokane Valley, Wash. – What happens to an NCAA cross country team that leaves its top-five runners at home and races nine underclassmen instead? They lose, right?
Wrong. The team of young Cougars didn’t just survive the 6k race Saturday in Spokanne Valley, Washington, they won it. And true freshman Alice Jensen broke the tape … then had a glass of water … then hugged her mom who was in town to watch … then tweeted about it … then high-fived the second-place runner as she crossed the finish line. She dominated the competition, winning by more than seven seconds in only her second-ever college meet.
"She came down here and just had the race of her life," said BYU head coach Patrick Shane. "She just had an amazing finish. And had she not won that race, we wouldn't have won the meet."
BYU beat out Gonzaga by just one point, scoring 43 team points. Gonzaga totaled 44 and Portland was close behind with 49. The Cougars will look to repeat as WCC champions at the conference championships next month when BYU’s top-five scorers are thrown into the mix
"You can go back to every single one of those girls," Shane said. "They had to have done what they did – had to hang on or beat the person they beat – for us to win by a point. It was impressive what they, especially Alice, did."
"Coach Shane kept saying, 'hey, we wouldn't be here if I didn't think we could win it,'" Jensen said. "So I really, really wanted to win. I kept thinking that I'm usually the team's sixth runner, but one through five weren't there so if we were going to win, I'd have to score."
She did more than score.
"To have a true freshman going back to Washington, her home, with her family there to support her, was one of those memories that will always be there," Shane said. "It was a special, special memory."
Alyssa Steed, who placed second for BYU and fifth overall, also had the race of her life, beating Portland's Anna Farello by less than two-tenths of a second, another position BYU needed to clinche the win.
What makes the victory against WCC rivals Gonzaga, Portland and Pacific even more significant is that only two of the nine runners, Steed and Kristi Rush, were wearing the BYU uniform last season.
The other sophomore, Ashleigh Warner, and redshirt freshman Niki Barrow both returned from Church missions earlier this year and haven’t competed since the 2012 season. The rest of the team, including Jensen, Aimee Bryson, Rachel Cannon, Lauren Shubin and Rachael Yergensen, was running in high school last year. Neither Shubin nor Yergensen even attended fall camp with the team, but are walk-ons from last two weeks.
Coach Shane will take the Cougars – including the top-five – to Seattle on Oct. 2 to compete in the Washington Invitational.
For complete results, visit DirectAthletics.com.