BYU claims WCC Championship with dominant victory
SPOKANE, Wash. – A dominant team score of 17 points, led by first place overall finisher Aaron Fletcher, gave No. 4 BYU men’s cross country its third West Coast Conference championship in five seasons since becoming a member of the conference.
BYU was just two points shy of a perfect team score on Saturday as the Cougars soundly defeated second place Portland (66 points). BYU coach Ed Eyestone won WCC Coach of the Year honors and he had high praise for his team’s effort.
“We ran to our potential today,” Eyestone said. “That’s all you can ever hope for as a coach and we certainly did that. I felt like we had a chance to put three guys up at the front, and I was hoping our four through nine runners would offer some good support. As the race went along, our group of three broke away along with a runner from San Francisco, and our four through seven runners in particular had great races. There was a wall of white BYU uniforms out in front from about the halfway point on. It’s a really good feeling to see that as a cross country coach.”
Fletcher was voted WCC Athlete of the Year following the race. The Cougars completed the sweep of all of the major conference awards as Dallin Farnsworth was named WCC Freshman of the Year. Fletcher and Farnsworth, as well as five of their teammates, Connor McMillan, Nicolas Montanez, Dallin Taylor, Dylan Shawhan and Mitchell Briggs were named first-team All-WCC selections after Saturday’s performance.
Fletcher and Taylor were also selected to the WCC All-Academic team. Steve Morrin, while not in uniform Saturday, received WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention.
“I’m not sure if this is the most dominant conference meet we’ve ever had, but it’s definitely the most dominant performance in a really long time,” Eyestone said. “We have a very good team. It’s a very special team. I think our team depth, combined with Portland losing some seniors from last year, put us in a very good position for this year’s conference meet.”
Fletcher (first), Montanez (second) and Farnsworth (third) led the field from the sounding of the gun. A strong fourth place performance from San Francisco’s Alex Short prevented the Cougars from winning with a perfect score of 15. Taylor (fifth) and McMillan (sixth) were the final runners to figure in the scoring for BYU. While not a factor in scoring, the Cougars’ team depth was on full display as Shawhan (seventh), Briggs (eighth), Jonathan Harper (15th) and Clayton Young (26th) each had quality performances compared to the rest of the 77-man field.
“I think it’s just a solid group of guys,” Eyestone said after the race. “It’s a young team, so they don’t take anything for granted. They feel like they have to work for everything they get and they have no sense of entitlement. They know they’re good, but they also know they have to work very hard and they’re not afraid to do that.”
Fletcher’s dramatic improvement during his senior campaign has played a huge part in the Cougars’ overwhelming success in 2015. Eyestone believes his No. 1 runner’s leadership role on this year’s squad is paying dividends on the field.
“I think it started over the summer when he took ownership of being one of the team captains,” Eyestone said. “He has taken that responsibility very seriously. He trained very hard during the summer months, and he was in great shape at the start of the season. I’m very proud of him. It’s great for him to win the conference championship as a senior. It’s a really nice feather he can put in his cap.”
While in the midst of a seemingly dream season, Eyestone knows there is still much his team can accomplish this year.
“We still have to run well at the regional and national meets,” he said. “Winning the conference championship was one of our biggest goals for the year. Now our focus shifts to the task at hand which is to prepare for and run well at the national meet.”
Up next for BYU are the NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Friday, Nov. 13. Broadcast information will be updated as it becomes available.
To view the complete WCC All-Academic team, visit wccsports.com.
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