Over the next couple days, I’ll crank out a couple blog posts on why X team will win or not win the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championship on Saturday. On Wednesday, I will be taping a podcast with Chris Chavez previewing all of the action for Saturday so if you have any questions or comments, send them my way by tweeting at me: @Wood_Report
The Case For BYU
Well obviously, I’m a little bias here…OK, a lot bias. (For those who haven’t followed throughout the season, I’m the director of track operations for the Cougars) I’ll try and be as objective as I can here. The pack of BYU is the reason that they will win. At the West Coast Conference championship, they were able to put five men within seven second of each other and ahead of the guy who finished second at the West Regional then that’s pretty good. If BYU can keep a seven-second spread…OK you’re already saying that won’t happen. Let’s take a look at their worst spread all year and that was 17 seconds at Pre-Nationals. For fun, let’s say their spread at NCAAs on Saturday is 20 seconds. Now let’s look at last year’s results at NCAAs, we can maybe plug in Rory Linkletter at fifth place. If we’re going 20 seconds from fifth then that would have put five guys in the top 31. I’d say that would win it.
Everyone is healthy. If you’re curious about resting at regionals, here’s the reason why it happened. Casey Clinger is a true freshman and so we are a little cautious with having a freshman run back-to-back 10Ks if he didn’t have to. He’s fine and was even saying, ‘I’ll do it!’ We thought it was in his best interest to not. Daniel Carney is an athlete that needs a little bit longer to recover from races so we want to make sure that he’s super fresh. We have one guy who is our dark horse and didn’t really want to show. We think that he’s capable of knocking one out of the park. If our seventh guy is an All-American then we’re OK.
I know this will be one of the longer scouting reports this week but it’s because it’s the team that I’m closest with and most knowledgeable of. What I love reading about in other sports around a championship is how the teams were built. Last year, it was intriguing to follow how the Chicago Cubs were assembled or how this year’s Houston Astros came together. If you’re wondering a little bit about how this BYU team came to be, it’s been cool for me to follow. I left BYU for Weber State as some of these guys were getting recruited and now I’m back to see the process through for some of them in our top five. I think we’re fortunate to have a distance hub in Utah right now. In all reality, we’ve gone after the best distance runners in state and the best LDS kids in the country (more on that in a second). That’s what we’re built on. A lot of credit has to go to obviously coach Ed Eyestone but also to American Fork coach Timo Mostert for not only help develop these kids at the high school level to be elite but also not tapping into their college potential. When three of your top five guys are from the same high school, that shows that you’re doing something right.
I’ve seen comments online about BYU and having an older team. Yes, there are a couple guys on the team that may not be in the NCAA under normal circumstances but there’s only two guys in our top five that went on missions and three in our top seven. I don’t think the age factor is an excuse that you can use. It’s not that different when you look at another team like NAU. Matt Baxter is the same age as our oldest guy. There is some level of maturity that has taken place when you’ve gone to a different location, lived on your own and spent two years of your life thinking about yourself. Maybe that brings more perspective than the average kid. I don’t think that if BYU wins, it’s fair to say that it’s because they’re old.
The Case Against BYU
I think there’s always a question mark when you look at how people have been running recently. We have a couple guys who I wouldn’t say are on the come up. Maybe they’ve plateaued a little bit or they haven’t had a great race in a while. They’ve all had a good race. The better word here is trending. We have a few guys that maybe aren’t necessarily trending up but their skill level hasn’t diminished.
Coming tomorrow: The case for and against Syracuse