FORT COLLINS, Colo. (November 13) - BYU's women are going back to the NCAA Championships for the 11th consecutive time after winning the Mountain Regional qualifying meet with a near-perfect score of 20 Saturday.
The men are also probable NCAA qualifiers, as they look to appear in the team finals for the first time since 1995. Although their third-place showing did not earn them one of 18 automatic spots up for grabs this weekend, their No. 12 ranking should be enough to earn them one of 12 at-large bids to be distributed by the selection committee Monday.
After scoring a perfect 15 in the Mountain West Conference Championships two weeks ago, the women destroyed the field once again, with runners finishing second through sixth for a total of 20 points. Colorado finished in second with 55 points, led by NCAA favorite Kara Wheeler, who won the race in 16:39. Sharolyn Shields finished first for the Cougars in 17:03 to take second place. Elizabeth Jackson (17:05), Susan Taylor (17:05), Tara Rohatinsky (17:07) and Kara Ormond (17:07) rounded out the scoring for the tightly-packed Cougars.
"It was such a good team meet for us," said Shields. "We were gaining so much strength from each other. Seeing how strong we all are now, I think we'll do really well at nationals."
"I have to admit I'm a little surprised by the outcome," said head coach Patrick Shane. "Our strategy was conservative: to run the first mile and a half in a single grouping and then break into smaller packs the rest of the way. For us to finish with 20 points at this meet is unheard of. It's much more impressive than our perfect score two weeks ago [at the MWC Championships]."
Senior Susan Taylor was the big story of the day for BYU. In only her second meet of the year, Taylor finished in fourth place in a heavily talented field. Coach Shane called Taylor his "secret weapon," since she seemingly came out of nowhere after a two-month absence from competition. After falling ill at the BYU Triple Crown nearly two months ago, Taylor missed so much practice time that it looked like her season and career were over.
On the men's side, it was Dula Parkinson that returned from illness to inspire his teammates. Parkinson had missed the conference championship meet and several practices before bouncing back to finish third on the team Saturday.
John Hedengren led the way for the Cougars with a fourth-place, 30:24 finish. Randon Richards finished in 12th (31:12), Parkinson in 21st (31:35), Marc Lawson in 24th (31:40) and David Danley in 30th (31:48) to round out the scoring for BYU.
Unranked Southern Utah University shocked the cross country world by taking first in the region with 57 points. Colorado finished in second (61) followed by BYU (91). The SUU Thunderbirds were not expected to make much noise in the talented region that included five of the nation's top 25 teams. Although the Cougars took third, they finished ahead of No. 14 Northern Arizona, No. 16 Weber State and No. 23 Utah to all but lock up a spot in the NCAA finals.
"I'm proud of our performance here today," said men's coach Sherald James. "John is putting together a spectacular season and it felt good to have Dula back. I feel good about our team's chances to qualify for nationals. We ran well enough to advance but conservatively enough so that we should be in good shape a week from Monday [at the NCAAs]."
The NCAA Championships will be held Monday, November 22 in Bloomington, Ind. The men's race will begin at 11 a.m., while the women's race is scheduled for a 12:15 p.m. start.
TEAM RESULTS - Women
1. BYU 20
2. Colorado 55
3. Northern Arizona 95
4. Montana State 162
5. Utah State 171
6. Idaho State 174
7. Weber State 175
7. Texas Tech 175
9. Nevada 226
10. Montana 229
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS - Women - BYU Finishers
2. Sharolyn Shields 17:03.73
3. Elizabeth Jackson 17:05.01
4. Susan Taylor 17:05.95
5. Tara Rohatinsky 17:07.07
6. Kara Ormond 17:07.65
15. Laura Heiner 17:34.61
21. Jill Rencher 17:58.62
TEAM RESULTS - Men
1. Southern Utah 57
2. Colorado 61
3. BYU 91
4. Northern Arizona 124
5. Weber State 132
6. Idaho State 158
7. Utah 175
8. Air Force 199
9. Colorado State 220
10. Texas Tech 246
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS - Men - BYU Finishers
4. John Hedengren 30:24.03
12. Randon Richards 31:12.67
21. Dula Parkinson 31:35.92
24. Marc Lawson 31:40.71
30. David Danley 31:48.33
47. Matt Poulsen 32:42.60
63. Nate Harrison 33:14.87
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.