Home course advantage went to the Cougars of Brigham Young University at the Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships in Provo, Utah, and they utilized it.
The Cougars won both the men’s and women’s races – scoring a perfect 15 points in the latter – for the fourth consecutive year. CSU took second in both races.
On the women’s side, BYU freshman Kassi Andersen, the MWC runner and freshman of the year, led her team in a dominating fashion, running an impressive time of 20:55.2 over the six-kilometer course.
The defending NCAA cross country champions took the first six spots in the race – a trend that was broken up when UNLV senior Jessica Zarndt finished seventh – and had all nine of their runners finish in the top 14.
CSU senior Jen Kintzley continued her string of excellent races as she led the running Rams to a second place finish, placing ninth with a time of 21:56.1.
Following Kintzley were teammates senior Meg Larson (10th, 21:57), junior Katie Yemm (13th, 22:03.9), sophomore Colleen Blair (17th, 22:16.5) and senior Kim Watson (19th, 22:19.8) who together combined for the Rams score of 68 points.
Though his team did not come out on top, head coach Del Hessel said he was pleased with the way his female runners raced.
“We’ve seen tremendous improvement in this team,” Hessel said. “We are really starting to come along.”
Hessel cited the health of Yemm and Blair, who have been recovering from nagging injuries all season, as a reason for the team’s overall improvement.
Due to his team’s outstanding performance at the meet, Patrick Shane, BYU women’s cross country head coach, was awarded the MWC women’s Coach of the Year award, completing BYU’s sweep of all-conference awards.
Though pleased with the award, Shane said his abilities as a coach had little to do with the team’s success.
“Great athletes make good coaches and not the other way around,” he said.
The race between the Cougars and the Rams was much closer on the men’s side, as BYU just edged CSU by a score of 37 to 42.
BYU sophomore and MWC runner of the year, Kip Kangogo completed the 10k course first with a time of 24:16.8, while CSU junior Austin Vigil continued his great season finishing second at 24:37.9.
With junior Bill Michel finishing sixth at 24:44.9, junior Dylan Olchin ninth at 24:50.4 and freshman Josh Glabb 10th at 24:50.8, the Rams only needed senior transfer – and former Cougar – Ammon Larsen to finish ahead a small pack of Cougars to win.
Larsen, however, failed to do so as BYU’s Steve Barrus (24:56), Nathan Robinson (24:57.7) and Andy Carman (24:58.9), finished 12th, 13th and 14th respectively while Larsen came in 15th at 25:00.9.
Though the narrow defeat was tough to take, Hessel said that is what championship racing is all about.
“You can never have a solid outline in cross country,” Hessel said. “There is always an unknown who steps up and changes the whole scoring. Usually, the team that winds up running the best is the team that has five guys cross the line with a superior performance.
Although neither team come away with a win, several Rams earned individual conference accolades.
On the women’s side Kintzley, Larson and Yemm earned second-team all-conference awards for their stellar races.
For the men, both Vigil and Michel earned first team all-conference recognition, while Olchin and Glabb garnered second team recognition. Glabb was also recognized for his first full season, taking home MWC Freshman of the Year honors.
-Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin