BYU track coach Ed Eyestone figures his men’s team needs to score around 40 points to get on the podium on Saturday night at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The Cougars finished eighth at the NCAA meet in 2019 with 27 points, a year that included a national champion in Clayton Young (10,000 meters). In 2005, BYU scored 34 points and finished fourth.
“We had an outstanding regional meet and now it’s on to Eugene,” Eyestone said. “We have a big group. We’re not just there to be tourists. We want to do the best we can and score some points.”
The men’s team has 14 entries, led by the nation’s top 10,000-meter runner in Conner Mantz. The junior from Smithfield, Utah, won the 2021 NCAA cross country championship in March and has turned in a nation’s best time of 27:41.16 this season in the 10,000.
American Fork sophomore Casey Clinger – the 2016 Gatorade Cross Country National Athlete of Year — in currently ranked No. 4 in the 5,000 meters and will be among the favorites in that race.
Talem Franco (No. 8) and freshman Lucas Bons (No. 7) are both in the top 10 in the 1,500 meters. Senior Garrett Marsing is No. 6 in the steeplechase and Cougars in two field events – sophomore Zach McWhorter (No. 3, pole vault) and junior Cameron Bates (No. 4, javelin) could score some points.
“We’ve come to expect some strength in the distance and middle distance,” Eyestone said, “but above and beyond that we have some good sprinters and relay teams, along with pole vault, discus and javelin. We’ve had a lot of people contributing points this year so we have a pretty well-rounded group.”
Senior Michael Bluth has run 45.13 in the 400 meters and is ranked 10th in that race going into Wednesday’s semifinals. Bluth also runs on the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relay teams.
Bluth is from Riverton, Utah, and has increased his times every year after transferring to Provo from Utah State.
“He married one of our former distance runners (Laura Young) and the benefit from their union was that he ended up down here,” Eyestone said. “We’re grateful for his services. He’s been patient and developed well. He’s running as fast as ever and had a PR by half a second. We’re super pleased with his leadership as the captain of the sprint group.”
The Cougars are ranked fifth going into the meet behind No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 USC and No. 4 Texas. BYU has been ranked as high as No. 2 this season.
“LSU is a standard deviation above everyone else but we’re right there with the rest,” Eyestone said. “Rather than get fixated on points, we’re just going to do the best we can. We’ll do the things we’ve done to get here so far and if those points add up we’ll be happy at the end of the day.”
The women’s team is ranked No. 11 going into the NCAA meet and features two top ranked runners in seniors Courtney Wayment (steeplechase) and Whittni Orton (5,000 meters). Wayment has run a 9:31.37 in her event and Orton has clocked 15:12.91 in the 5,000. Orton has also qualified as the No. 3 runner in the 1,500 meters and senior Anna Camp-Bennett is No. 7.
Eyestone is confident his athletes will be ready to go.
“The hay is in the barn, we just need to go in well rested and know what we’re going up against,” he said. “The main thing is to trust the process. We don’t get to the outcome we want unless we’re focused and doing the things we’ve done to get us there. We’re going to have fun with it.”
The men begin the event on Wednesday, including BYU decathlete Dallin Vorkink. Three finals – McWhorter in the pole vault, Bates in the javelin and Mantz in the 10,0000 meters – will be held on Wednesday.
The women begin their meet on Thursday with the semifinal rounds. Orton in the 5,000 and high jumper Cierra Tidwell Allphin will compete in finals on that day.
ESPN will televise the meet on several of its networks (ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3).