Which is the best conditioned athletic program on the BYU campus?

The Cougar women’s soccer team makes a strong case.

Coach Jennifer Rockwood estimates her players run 7 to 9 miles during a typical match. BYU is known for its high pressure defense, quick-strike offense and end-to-end style. The team works hard during the offseason with strength and conditioning coach Turreal Moore, culminating in a stunningly difficult fitness evaluation the players call, “Repeats.”

Here’s how it works: The players line up and sprint 60 yards with a time limit of 10 seconds. Approximately 40 seconds later, they line up to do it again. The run is repeated 45 times, nearly an hour of running.

“It’s brutal,” Rockwood admitted. “I don’t know how they do it.”

When Bronco Mendenhall was the head football coach at BYU the Cougars dreaded the “Beep Test,” a conditioning drill that involves continuous running between two lines 20 yards apart, changing direction to whistles or beeps.

“We’ve done the beep test for conditioning in the past,” Rockwood said. “This one is harder than any beep test, I can guarantee you.”

All-American midfielder Mikayla Colohan said the most difficult part of this grueling test is how long it takes.

“We build up all summer to take the test,” she said.

Peak conditioning is among the reasons BYU has been so successful in soccer. Rockwood has won more than 400 games in her career and the Cougars have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 21 times in the past 26 years.

“Our conditioning is huge, especially because of our style of play,” Colohan said. “We’re a very fit, fast, athletic team. It’s a big advantage for us to be able to go longer than our opponent because of our fitness. We play at a high level and it’s great to be able to play at that level and not sacrifice technique or our high quality soccer because we’re tired.

“We’re a high press team and that’s what we’re known for. We really catch a lot of teams off guard because they are not used to playing under so much pressure.”

Last season BYU posted an 11-4-1 mark and earned a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, falling to Virginia 2-0 in the second round. The Cougars were the only blemish on the season record of West Coast Conference foe Santa Clara, which ended up winning the national title.

“All our players are pretty fit,” Rockwood said. “Cam (Cameron Tucker) can run for days and ‘Kayla (Colohan) is not too far behind her. We have a very mentally tough group that is competitive and passionate about the game. In soccer you don’t get to call a time out and catch you’re breath. You just keep going.”

The Cougars have been busy for the last seven weeks holding soccer camps on campus. Rockwood said they’ve worked with nearly 3,000 campers. The team begins preseason workouts in early August and will begin the season with an exhibition match at South Field against Weber State on August 14, followed by the home opener against Ohio State on August 19.

BYU returns all but one starter from the spring season.

“We have unfinished business,” Rockwood said. “We’re anxious to get on the field and put things together again.”

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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