BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (November 22) – For the second time in three years, the Cougar women are national champions in cross country, winning the title by a comfortable 53-point margin. The program becomes the first in BYU history to pick up two national titles (1997, 1999). Past titles have been awarded to men’s volleyball (1999), football (1984), men’s golf (1981) and men’s track and field (1970).
A dark and gloomy day set the stage for the men’s race, where illness and misfortune teamed up on the Cougars, who struggled to a 30th-place finish. As the women took the field, however, the sun broke through the clouds to shine on the nation’s best team. Five All-Americans emerged for BYU on a day that was expected to be Stanford’s to lose.
Women’s coach Patrick Shane instructed his team before the race to run together in packs through the bulk of the race, a strategy that produced a dominating victory at last week’s regional meet. Shane decided to stick with the approach Monday, a coaching move that proved instrumental in leading the Cougars to the title. Less than twenty seconds separated the Cougars’ top five, and BYU’s second through fifth runners finished within six seconds of each other.
Senior Elizabeth Jackson finished first for the team in 11th place overall in 16:59. She was followed by Kara Ormond in 16th (17:11), Tara Rohatinsky in 17th (17:13), Sharolyn Shields in 23rd (17:16) and Laura Heiner in 26th (17:17). All five were awarded All-American honors following the race. BYU finished with a total of 72 points, ahead of second-place Arkansas’ 125 and Stanford in third with 127. The point spread was a far cry from last year’s final in which only five points separated the top three teams.
In the emotional celebration after the results were announced, Shane gave all the credit to his talented lineup. “This is easily the best team I have ever coached, no question. The team unity, spirit and feeling was very positive and it carried them through today. It’s like nothing I’ve seen in over twenty years of coaching,” said Shane. “It was one of the most exciting races I’ve ever seen. We were up front in a pack all the way. Our strategy was a lot like regionals. We moved out front early and were able to run together as a pack for much of the race.”
Coach Shane’s pack philosophy hit home with the Cougars’ talented lineup. Senior Elizabeth Jackson credited teamwork for the victory. “We said last night in a team meeting that we wanted to run for each other, and that’s what we did. We ran together as a team.” Jackson became the first runner in BYU history to be named All-American four times in cross country. Teammate Kara Ormond, who achieved All-American status for the first time added, “This was not an individual race, it was a team win. It was an incredible experience, I’m sure nothing will ever be like this feeling.”
The No. 15 men seemed to be working against the fates in Bloomington. In a parade of misfortune, food poisoning, allergies, asthma and cramps shot down the Cougars’ hopes for a top-10 finish. “We really struggled today,” said Coach Sherald James. “It was hard to see three or four individuals who have trained so hard have outside factors like allergies and sickness affect their performance. I’m convinced that if we were healthy we had the capacity of finishing in the top five. We just weren’t 100 percent physically and it showed.”
Arkansas took home the men’s title with 58 team points, followed by Wisconsin (185) and North Carolina State (201). Randon Richards was the first Cougar to cross the finish line, placing 72nd in 31:48. John Hedengren (157th, 32:49), David Danley (196th, 33:24), Dula Parkinson (222nd, 33:55) and Nate Harrison (228th, 34:07) rounded out the scoring for BYU. Senior Matt Poulsen, who stayed up all night wheezing with asthma problems, was forced to withdraw midway through the race, while fellow senior Marc Lawson limped to a 240th-place finish with severe muscle cramps.
“We really ran under par today,” said Richards. “We started off exactly how we wanted and through the first mile we were right where we hoped to be. I know it wasn’t because of a lack of effort, but it’s disappointing to struggle like we did in the biggest race of the year.”
Both teams will arrive in Salt Lake City at 9:31 p.m. tonight on United flight 629, arriving through Chicago.
TEAM RESULTS – Women
1. BYU 72
2. Arkansas 125
3. Stanford 127
4. Wisconsin 185
5. Kansas State 232
6. North Carolina 294
7. Georgetown 321
8. Colorado 351
9. Brown 354
10. Providence 368
BYU FINISHERS – Women
11. Elizabeth Jackson 16:59.2 (8 pts)
16. Kara Ormond 17:11.7 (13 pts)
17. Tara Rohatinsky 17:13.3 (14 pts)
23. Sharolyn Shields 17:16.0 (17 pts)
26. Laura Heiner 17:17.7 (20 pts)
58. Sarah Ellett 17:42.8
107. Susan Taylor 18:03.3
TEAM RESULTS – Men
1. Arkansas 58
2. Wisconsin 185
3. NC State 201
4. Stanford 223
5. Michigan 282
6. Oregon 306
7. Colorado 307
8. Notre Dame 312
9. Iona 338
10. Arizona 346
30. BYU 717