No. 6 BYU men’s and the No. 24 women’s Cross Country teams traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to compete against the best in the Nation at the NCAA Championships. In addition to getting a few final training sessions in at the course, the teams were invited to an awards banquet held at historic Churchill Downs.
“Regions was fun,” Natalie Shields-Connolly said. “We did a lot better than we did at our conference meet, but there‘s more we can do, and we‘re going to do it at nationals. We’re ready.”
“Qualifying for Nationals was a major team goal this season,” said BYU head coach Patrick Shane. “We’re excited to go and compete at the national level. I’ve said all along this is a great cross country team. They’ve earned this.”
“We’re excited about the national meet. This marks the 17th year in a row we’ve qualified our men’s team, and I think they’re ready to roll,” BYU coach Ed Eyestone said. “They have a quiet confidence and determination about them, and hopefully we’ll go there and run to the best of our ability.” BYU qualified for the national meet by receiving an at-large bid from the NCAA after taking third at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships last Friday.
The Cougars currently hold the third longest active streak for NCAA Championships team appearances at 17. “You can’t control how other teams perform. You can’t really do anything to slow them down; you just have to run as fast as you can,” Eyestone said.
Carrie Jube led BYU women’s cross country team to a 23rd-place finish at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. “We did our very best,” said BYU head coach Patrick Shane. “We came in ranked 24th and we ended up 23rd. Considering how things went for us, that was really good.”
BYU’s usual top runner, Natalie Shields-Connolly, lost her shoe half a mile into the 6-kilometer race and ended up finishing without it on a cold, unforgiving course with gravel and other rough terrain. “That made it really, really tough for her,” Shane said. “But she fought hard and ended up second for the team.” On top of that, another of BYU’s usual top scorers, Jennica Redd, took ill when the team arrived in Louisville on Wednesday, and was not even able to jog the course with the team the day before the meet.
Carrie Jube (99th), Natalie Connolly (137th), Yesenia Silva (155th), Alice Jensen (134th), Alyssa Steed (205th), Ashleigh Warner (242nd) and Jennica Redd (243rd) combined for 591 points “In the end, we got to Nationals and ended up in the top-25 in the nation,” Shane said. “We got it done. 23rd in the nation is a solid, solid effort. It was a great season.”
Dallin Farnsworth led the way in the 10k for the Cougars with a 74th-place finish. Aaron Fletcher was in the top 35 at the 8k mark, but his pace slowed over the final 2,000 meters as he finished 81st. Connor McMillan (84th), Dallin Taylor (132nd) and Nicolas Montanez (146th) rounded out the BYU team score of 406 points. Dylan Shawhan (155th) and Jonathan Harper (225th) also ran in uniform for the Cougars.
“Ultimately, we just weren’t quite as high as I would have liked to see us,” Eyestone said. “It wasn’t the best day, but we still finished 12th out of 301 teams in the nation. There’s nothing to be too discouraged about considering it was a really successful year for us.” With the 12th-place finish, BYU has now finished in the top 20 in the country for eight-consecutive seasons. It is also the 14th time in Eyestone’s 16 years as head coach that the Cougars have finished the year in the top 20.