Cougars make statement, take second in Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. – In the biggest meet of the season to date, things could not have gone much better as the No. 9 BYU men’s cross country team took second overall at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational Friday.
In a meet that featured 17 of the nation’s top 30 ranked teams, BYU took a huge, and somewhat unexpected, step toward qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet. BYU coach Ed Eyestone was thrilled with his team.
“Going into this meet, we thought a top five finish would be nice,” Eyestone said. “We thought we would get all the points we needed if we were in the top five. We thought a top three finish would be fantastic, and so I think we surpassed all of our wildest expectations today.”
The Cougars were able to accomplish each one of their goals heading into Wisconsin, namely to get ready for the WCC Championships coming up on Halloween.
“This is good for us,” Eyestone said. “It shows how strong we are. I think our guys believe we can do good things at the conference, regional and national meet. We’re not going to let it go to our heads by any means, but it’s a nice midseason report card. We certainly got an ‘A’ on this one.”
The only team to beat the Cougars in Madison was the No. 2 Syracuse Orange. Eyestone believes such a performance distinguishes BYU as the second best team in the Mountain Region, behind Colorado. The top two teams in each region are automatic qualifiers into the NCAA Championships.
Eyestone knew he would have a good team coming into the season. But with such a young group, he admits they are full of surprises.
“As we looked at this season, we knew we were going to be a pretty young team with Aaron (Fletcher) being the only senior among our top five,” he said. “I think we had modest expectations. But each meet, the guys keep showing that they believe. Sometimes it’s good to have a young team that’s naïve. They believe that awesome things are going to happen, and that’s what’s been happening thus far.”
BYU was led by its usual top three, Dallin Farnsworth (16th overall), Aaron Fletcher (18th) and Connor McMillan (26th), respectively. Jonathan Harper (44th) and Mitchell Briggs (82nd) came in fourth and fifth to round out the scoring for the Cougars. Dylan Shawhan and Clayton Young also ran in the “A” race, but did not figure in the team score. Eyestone was really impressed with the way Harper stepped up on a huge stage.
“I decided yesterday to put (Jonathan) Harper in the “A” race instead of Nicolas Montanez because he’s had a cold all week long,” Eyestone said. “He certainly made the most of it. He ended up being our fourth man overall. I told him after the race that I’d give him the performance of the week, though we had great performances from all of our top five. But Harper really stepped up today.”
Four Cougars also competed in the “B” race Friday. Dallin Taylor (2nd), Montanez (3rd), Steve Morrin (11th) and Rory Linkletter (16th) all showed well. BYU looks to have a very deep group of nine runners they will take to the conference meet in two weeks.
Up next for the Cougars is a repeat visit to Plante Ferry Park in Spokane, Washington, for the WCC Championships on October 31.
For complete race results, click here.
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