TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The BYU men’s and women’s cross country teams took seventh and 10th place, respectively, at the NCAA National Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday.
The men’s team took seventh place with a total of 247 points. Just ahead of BYU was Colorado with 223 points and just behind the Cougars was Wisconsin with 256. Head coach Ed Eyestone was extremely pleased with both BYU teams’ remarkable performances.
“We had an amazing day,” Eyestone said. “Both the men’s and women’s team finished in the top ten for the first time since the 90s, and so, obviously, it was a great day for us. I am really happy—very solid team race.”
BYU was led by senior captain Nico Montanez who finished ninth overall with a time of 30:02.3. Sophomore Rory Linkletter followed Montanez and finished in 30:19.5, placing 32nd overall. Both athletes received All-American honors for their top-40 finishes.
“Nico ran a really strong come-from-behind race to break into the top ten, which is the highest placing by an individual at BYU since 2006. It was a great contest for him,” Eyestone said. “Rory also ran a super race. He didn’t have the best start in the word, but he moved up really strong and had a powerful last 2k to advance almost 30 spots. Great races by both of them.”
Clayton Young was the third Cougar to cross the finish line, and he took 77th overall with a time of 30:43.9. Spencer Hanson followed Young and took 92nd overall in 30:49.6. Jonathan Harper finished shortly after and placed 101st overall in 30:51.9. Close behind Harper was senior Mitchell Briggs who took 88th overall in 30:55.1, just ahead of freshman Brayden McLelland who rounded out the Cougar runners and logged a mark of 30:57.4, taking 110th overall.
The men finish the 2016 season as the seventh-best team in the nation and spent each week of the season ranked in the top 15.
“This was a powerful day of racing, and this finish sets us up really well for our track season,” Eyestone concluded.
On the women’s side, a 10th-place finish proved to far exceed the team’s hopes going in as the 28th-ranked team in the nation. Head coach Diljeet Taylor is proud of her squad for coming into the competition and performing not only well, but beyond expectations.
“The girls ran a phenomenal race, and I am so proud of what we accomplished today,” coach Taylor said. “Our goal was to have the highest finish we have had in 10 years, which was 19th place. We knew if things went really well that we could be in that top 15, but for us to come in and get top 10 is incredible.
Taylor said that everything came together at the right moment. With a race plan to be calm the first 2k, to commit the second 2k and to compete the final 2k, the girls executed perfectly.
BYU was led by sophomore All-American Erica Birk who placed took 34th overall with a time of 20:20.6.
Behind Birk was junior Laura Young who recorded a 71st-place finish in 20:41.8. Freshman Olivia Hoj was only seconds behind, and she finished in 20:45.1 and took 82nd overall. Senior Yesenia Silva took 114th overall and crossed the finish line in 20:53.9. Junior Ashleigh Warner took 123rd place in 20:56.0 and freshman Courtney Wayment was just behind, finishing in 21:04.6 to take 153rd. Sophomore Alice Jensen was the final Cougar to finish, and she did so in 21:10.6 to take 170th overall.
“The conditions were terrible—windy, freezing cold—but that didn’t affect us at all,” Taylor said. “The girls just had such a good mindset going into the race. They were motivated, they knew they had worked hard and were prepared to compete, and they took care of business.”
The team’s 10th-place finish is the highest finish for the BYU women's cross country since 2005. They spent four weeks of the season ranked in the top 20 and finish the season as the 10th-best team in the nation.
“I’m super excited to have this happen in my first season, and I am so grateful for these women and what they have done and how they rep the Y. Obviously, this is a huge thing for our program,” Taylor concluded.
The results on both the men's and women's teams mark the first time since 1995 that both the men’s and women’s cross country teams finished in the top 10 at Nationals, when the women finished in fourth place and the men took 10th.