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BYU cross-country: Ward, Cougars place fourth at Mountain Region Championships

RIVERDALE — One day after having his eligibiltiy reinstated, Jared Ward finished fourth overall to lead No. 5 BYU men's cross-country to a fourth-place team finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships on Friday.

"It's fun to be back with the team," Ward said. "It's fun to see the support of the fans and even the competition. I felt pretty good, even better than I thought that I would. We took care of business today."

Jason Witt and Tylor Thatcher finished in the 18th and 19th spots, respectively. Taylor Farnsworth finished fourth for the Cougars and 32nd overall. Curtis Carr was the final scoring runner for BYU, placing 36th to give the Cougars a total of 109 points.

"We held out a few of our runners so they would be rested," head coach Ed Eyestone said. "Anytime you do that it creates a little bit of an element of uncertainty because you're not going full strength. I was really happy with our top three who will be running at nationals. The big question of the day was how would Ward respond. I think we learned that at a sub-max effort he's very capable of running with the lead pack. I think Witt and Thatcher ran very well, very controlled also. I was happy with that."

No. 2 Northern Arizona finished in first place with 61 points, just edging No. 1 Colorado, which finished with 69 points. No. 11 New Mexico finished in third with 79 points.

Aaron Fletcher and Dylan Shawhan finished 61st and 66th place, respectively, as the sixth and seventh runners for BYU.

With a fourth-place finish, the Cougars are optimistic that they will recieve an at-large bid to run in the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday, Nov. 23. BYU finished sixth at the NCAA Championships last season.

Justin Green is the sports information director over men's track and cross country for BYU Athletic Communications. He is a BYU student majoring in public relations and minoring in business and will graduate in April 2013. Email: justinjgreen8@gmail.