Provo • Some of them live together, most of them hang out together and all of them run together — at 7 in the morning, most days.
And now they are going together to the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Austin, Texas, this week.
Six BYU distance runners will compete in one event — the 10,000 meters — on Wednesday night at the Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium as the school will break its own record for most entries in a single event at nationals. The previous record was five, set by BYU in the decathlon in 1975.
What is in the water in Provo?
Brotherhood and a winning culture, says senior Rory Linkletter, the 10,000 meters champion at the West Preliminaries in Sacramento two weeks ago.
“What coaches and former athletes have built here is a really good environment to succeed in,” Linkletter said. “The expectation keeps getting higher and higher and people just live up to it because it is contagious. It is an awesome thing to be a part of.”
The other qualifiers are seniors Connor McMillan (4th), Clayton Young (8th) and Dallin Farnsworth (10th), junior Connor Weaver (11th) and sophomore Conner Mantz (5th).
Linkletter and BYU track and field coach Ed Eyestone said the night the six Cougars qualified in Sacramento is one they will never forget.
“We’ve just been blessed with a very nice team culture over the years, and success breeds success,” Eyestone said. “Guys have had that winning attitude and bought into that team culture that supports one another.”
Fellow 10,000-meter runners Michael Ottesen, Brayden McClelland and Danny Carney qualified for regionals, but weren’t among the 12 from the West Preliminaries who qualified for nationals.
“I jokingly say the 10,000 is the most exciting event in track and field,” Eyestone said. “Twenty-five laps of controlled fury.”
For Linkletter, who will become the head cross country coach at his alma mater, Herriman High, next fall, watching five teammates finish in the top 12 behind him still brings out every emotion imaginable.
“It was such a great experience to see those guys advance with their best races of the season, best races of their lives, and the excitement and emotion they were able to show,” he said. “It was clear that they really, really believed in themselves throughout the season and didn’t care what the odds were. They just put themselves in it.”
So the top 24 runners in the country in that event will converge Wednesday in Texas, where conditions are expected to be hot and muggy.
“We have a good opportunity to do some good things,” Eyestone said. “Four of our guys [Linkletter, Mantz, McMillan and Young] are ranked very high. But the East regional runners are strong and competitive. Austin isn’t going to be about fast times. It is going to be a war of attrition where we are going to have to battle the heat and humidity as well as the 25 laps.”
In all, BYU will have 22 entries at the meet (16 men, 6 women), the most in school history, and should post a top-10 team score on the men’s side and a top-20 score on the women’s side. Men’s events will be Wednesday and Friday, while women’s events will be Thursday and Saturday.
“It all boils down to the event coaches that we have here at BYU,” Eyestone said. “They are great at building their own culture in their event groups. We are a diverse group, but the commonality we have is we are all passionate about the sport.”
Especially the 10,000 meters.
Eyestone said other top BYU athletes to watch are Andrea Stapleton-Johnson, who is ranked No. 1 in the high jump, and Erica Birk-Jarvis, who returned to the sport after giving birth to a child 16 months ago and is ranked No. 2 in the steeplechase. Brenna Porter is a threat to make the podium in the 400-meter hurdles.
Utah State, Weber State and Southern Utah will also be represented at nationals.
The Aggies will send javelin thrower Sindri Gudmundsson and Cierra Simmons-Mecham in the women’s steeplechase.
The Wildcats will send Tawnie Moore in the 100-meter hurdles, Kate Sorensen in the 400-meter hurdles and Nathan Dunivan in the discus.
The Thunderbirds will be represented by George Espino (800 meters), Frank Harris III (high jump), Kasey Knevelbaard (1,500 meters), Skyler Porcaro (javelin) and Angie Nickerson (5,000 meters).
NCAA TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Wednesday-Saturday, at Austin Texas