If any team has a shot to dethrone the two-time defending NCAA champions, the Northern Arizona men, at nationals this November, it’s No. 2-ranked BYU.
Led by an accomplished senior trio in Connor McMillan, Clayton Young, and Rory Linkletter, plus two stud sophomores who were steeple All-Americans in 2018 (Matt Owens and Clayson Shumway), the Cougars could go toe-to-toe with NAU if they run well in Madison.
That’s all fine and well, but we’re not here to talk about BYU’s top five, or even their top seven for that matter. This post is about the Cougars’ bounty of talent beyond their top group; Coach Ed Eyestone’s projected “B” team—the eight-through-12 runners—are good enough to be a top-15 NCAA squad on their own. If only schools could run multiple teams at NCAAs, of course.
It’s the type of depth coaches can usually only dream of, but for BYU in 2018, it’s depth that will provide loads of options as they look to build an NCAA roster capable of taking down NAU.
Using our newly released top 255 NCAA individual rankings—which were compiled by a computer rating system that factors in previous cross country performances and track PRs—BYU has five athletes outside of their projected top seven who could reasonably form a top-15 NCAA roster on their own.
Check out the talented bunch BYU will have at their disposal should one of their top seven falter:
BYU's "B" Squad Is Loaded
Top 255 Ranking
Best NCAA XC Finish
Top Track PR
Jacob Heslington (JR)
8:43 3K SC
Dallin Farnsworth (SR)
Brayden McLelland (JR)
Kramer Morton (SO)
Connor Weaver (SO)
Each of Kramer Morton, Dallin Farnsworth, and Brayden McLelland have run at NCAAs before, with Farnsworth (74th in 2015) and Morton (65th in 2017) scoring at nationals for the Cougars in previous seasons. Additionally, junior Jacob Heslington qualified for the NCAA steeple final in 2017, while sophomore Connor Weaver finished as the Cougars’ sixth man at their season-opener on September 15 in a race without Clayton Young and Matt Owens.
If you use the ranking for each of BYU’s “B” team athletes above and apply it to last year’s cross country results, while also factoring in the removal of individual athletes, you come up with a score of 420 points. Last year in Louisville, the Alabama men finished 14th with 420 points.
While a ranking is by no means a perfect science, BYU’s depth in 2018 is astounding no matter how you look at it. The fact that they have 12 guys capable of cracking their loaded NCAA roster, even without the services of their top runner from NCAAs last year, Casey Clinger, is nearly as impressive as their No. 2 ranking itself.
And if the Cougars manage to usurp NAU atop the NCAA podium this November, their crazy depth will be a big reason why.