Nov 17 | 11:15 AM

E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park

3000 Freys Hill Rd Louisville KY 40241-2132

Anonymous | Posted: 17 Nov 2012 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

BYU takes 6th at NCAA Championships, two runners earn All-America honors


PROVO, Utah - The No. 8 BYU men's cross country team finished sixth on Saturday at the 2012 NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. Jared Ward and Tylor Thatcher each had top-40 individual finishes, which earned them All-America honors.

Oklahoma State won the national championship with 72 points while Wisconsin, Colorado and Northern Arizona filled out the rest of the podium. Florida State finished fifth with 238 points and BYU grabbed the sixth spot with 245.

"We were led again by Jared Ward, who had a really gutsy performance out front for us," head coach Ed Eyestone said. "I think finishing sixth was an excellent performance for us. Any time you have two All-Americans you'll usually finish in the top 10 and that's what happened for us today."

Ward and Thatcher led the way for the Cougars, finishing 14th and 34th overall, respectively. It was the first time either runner finished as an All-American in cross country. Ward ran the 10K race in 29:33.4 and Thatcher finished with a time of 29:57.9.

"From the start of the race I put myself in a pack I thought I should be able to run with and just ran as hard as I could," Ward said. "I wouldn't say I had a golden day today, but I got through it. To be rewarded with an All-America finish, I can go home with my head held high and proud to be on this team."

Conner Peloquin (30:36.8) finished in 84th place, Thomas Gruenewald (30:38.6) finished 91st, and Steve Flint (30:48.7) finished 106th for BYU.  Senior co-captain and 2011 All-American Rex Shields submitted a time of 31:30.9 while Jason Witt completed the race in 32:56.6.

With Shields struggling with plantar fasciitis for most of the season and Witt battling a case of strep throat earlier in the week, Eyestone said he knew his team would have to step up in order to compete with the top programs in the country.

"It was a tough blow for us, but that happens," Eyestone said. "I was very pleased though with the five scoring runners that we had because from very early on it looked like the guys who were sick or hurt weren't going to be back, and so our five other runners really had to step up and they came through for us today."

Early in the race the Cougars were down as far as 14th place, but battled back during the last half to pick up the sixth-place finish.

"I thought our guys rose to the occasion," Eyestone said. "Conner (Peloquin) and Tommy (Gruenewald) were back pretty far to start the race and they just progressively moved their way through. Towards the end Steve Flint must have passed 20 guys over the last mile or so and that made a big difference for us."

BYU's sixth-place finish marks the fourth time the program has finished in the top ten at the NCAA Cross Country Championships under Eyestone. In 2011, the Cougars made the podium with a fourth-place finish. BYU finished ninth in 2008 and fifth in 2004.

Complete results for the 2012 NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships.

Anonymous | Posted: 15 Nov 2012 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

Cougars aim for a podium finish at nationals


PROVO, Utah – After placing second in the Mountain Region Championships last weekend, the No. 8 BYU men's cross country team heads to the NCAA National Championships to try to make the podium for the second year in a row.

The race begins Saturday at 1:15 p.m. EST and will be held at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kent. Earlier this year, the Cougars took second place behind Colorado at the Pre-Nationals meet held at the same venue.

"The guys are familiar with the course so there won't be any big surprises for them," head coach Ed Eyestone said. "It's always nice to have a little experience on a course."

The race will include the nation's top cross country programs, including BYU's West Coast Conference rival Portland, who ranked ninth in the latest national coaches' poll. Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and Colorado are among the other top-tier schools the Cougars will face this weekend.

"We're going to have to run a very good race because there are a lot of good teams out there," Eyestone said. "But I think if we do run our best race we have a nice chance to be a podium team again this year."

Despite missing two meets in the middle of the season due to illness and minor injury, senior All-American Rex Shields returned to lineup last weekend to finish 15th overall at the Mountain Region Championships, earning All-Region honors with fellow teammates Jared Ward, Tylor Thatcher, Jason Witt and Conner Peloquin. Eyestone said it makes a big difference to have one of his leaders back in action.

"It's good to have Rex back. He was able to run a very hard race last week on a sore foot and got a good workout out of it," Eyestone said. "It was just another great training stimulus for him."

As a co-captain with Shields, Ward has been BYU's top runner all season. Eyestone said Ward is used to running a more conservative pace early in races, but expects he'll need to get out front a little earlier in order to place as high as he can.

"We will come up with a strategy that will allow Jared to reach his potential," Eyestone said. "I don't think our team wants Jared to sacrifice any individual glory for the sake of running with the team. Ultimately, the thing that's best for the team is for Jared to have his best race and for the other runners to finish as fast as they can, with good compression between them."

Having placed fourth at last year's national meet, Eyestone said his team knows what it takes to make it to the podium and wants to hold up a trophy again this year.

"Our team's level of expectation is to get back to the podium," he said. "There are some top-notch teams that we'll be battling with, and we respect those teams, but we feel like our team can merit a top-four finish or better."

Results for the meet will be posted on the BYU men's cross country home page as soon as they are available.