BYU men’s cross country team wins national championship; Cougars finish second in women’s event

Brigham Young University men's cross country coach Ed Eyestone and women's coach Diljeet Taylor pose with their National Champion and National Runner-Up trophies, respectively, on the awards podium with their runners on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 after the NCAA Div. I Cross Country Championships at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. (Joseph C. Garza/Tribune-Star via AP)

For the first time in program history, the BYU men's cross country team is bringing home the national championship.

The men won the title, while the women’s team finished as national runner-ups at the 2019 NCAA Championships at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday.

It’s also the first time in program history that both teams placed top-two in the country. Last season, the men finished runner-ups and the women came in seventh. Both teams were ranked No. 3 going into the race.

“It was a huge day for us, for the program,” coach Ed Eyestone said. “I’m incredibly proud of coach (Diljeet) Taylor and how the women performed. Seeing them rise up was really inspiring. We knew it could be a great day for BYU.”

The men, who earned an at-large bid to nationals after finishing in third place overall at the Mountain Region Championships, were led by Conner Mantz. The sophomore finished third in the men’s 10-kilometer race with a time of 30 minutes, 40.0 seconds to help upset No. 1 Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks had won the title the past three years.

In total, BYU had five runners finish in the top-45 for a program-best 109-point performance.

Eyestone also became the first man to win an individual national title as a runner (1984) and then coach a team to a championship.

“Proud of the way the guys fought through the elements; it was raining for most of the race,” Eyestone said. “I think our guys proved that they are ‘mudders.’ These guys that we have here on out team are tough, they overcome adversity and can compete through anything.”

The women had their best finish since the 2003 season, when they also finished second.

For the first time in program history, the BYU women placed three runners in the top seven. Courtney Wayment (20:16.1) led the Cougars with a fifth-place finish in the 6K race, while Erica Birk-Jarvis (20:16.1) took sixth and Whittni Orton (20:17.0) finished seventh.

The women bested No. 2 Stanford by 19 points, but were edged out by No. 1 Arkansas by six points, 96-102.

The competition was so close that, had BYU's last two runners finished one second faster, the Cougars would have tied for first.

“Our women ran amazing,” Taylor said. “That was an overall great performance. I’m really proud of how tough they were out there. Getting NCAA runner-ups after finishing so close is a little bit bittersweet when you’re a competitor. We were ranked third coming in, so we knew we had a shot to win it. … We had some crazy dreams; no one expected this out of us before the season. We fought for that crazy dream and I’m unbelievably proud of our women and how hard they worked.”