FEATURE FRIDAY: BYU No Longer Under The Radar
There are consequences to every action.
BYU head coach Ed Eyestone warned his team of that fact after it routed Oregon and Stanford – two fellow top-10 programs – at the Bill Dellinger Invitational two weeks ago.
“I told them, ‘We’re not going to be the best-kept secret any longer,’” Eyestone said over the phone last week. “FloTrack came out for a Workout Wednesday a little while ago and we were ranked in the top-10 of several polls, but we had been flying under the radar a bit, which had been perfectly fine for us.”
The Cougars, who were ranked sixth nationally at the time, scored just 17 points as Clayton Young, Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan and Casey Clinger finished 1-2-3-4 within four seconds of each other. Washington’s Colby Gilbert and Stanford’s Alex Ostberg kept BYU from making it a clean sweep as they crossed the finish line ahead of Daniel Carney.
“I know Stanford held out three or four of its top guys and Oregon is missing a few horses up front, but Colby Gilbert is an incredible talent,” Eyestone said. “Colby is a guy who went 13:34 last year in the 5K, so to have four guys ahead of him really speaks to our conditioning.”
The Cougars soared to second in the latest National Coaches’ Poll – the highest ranking in program history – and earned a first-place vote from the electorate.
BYU enters this weekend’s Pre-National Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky as the top-ranked team in the field. Eyestone’s squad will be joined by three other programs that are ranked in the top-10 – No. 5 Arkansas, No. 7 Colorado and No. 8 Oregon – but the Cougars know all eyes will be on them.
“We talked about the elephant in the room, because if you go tip-toeing around it trying to deflect pressure, it’s worthless,” Eyestone said of the heightened expectations. “We know the quality of guys we have together and they welcome the challenge. We knew coming into the season that 2017 could be a banner year for the program. We discussed it with the guys before the summer started and they all bought in.”
Eyestone noted that a number of his athletes stuck around at altitude to get their mileage in, either in Provo or Salt Lake City. Those who spent their summer in the state capital made routine drives south to take part in workouts and long runs with their teammates.
Perhaps the best example of the team’s investment in 2017 rests in the story of Clinger, a true freshman who last year became the first male in the history of Nike Cross Nationals to win back-to-back individual titles. Clinger, a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chose BYU over Oregon and will begin a two-year mission to Sapporo, Japan in January – not right away, as originally thought.
“Casey is an incredible young man with exceptional talent,” Eyestone said. “For us to sign him and for him to volunteer to push back his mission to be able to compete and help out the team as much as possible this year means a lot. It speaks volumes about the camaraderie these guys have and how they all want to be part of something special in putting BYU back on the map.”