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‘A dream season’: Taking stock of BYU’s stellar track and field and cross-country 2021 campaigns

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named the BYU women’s program as the NCAA Division I Program of the Year

BYU’s Anna Camp celebrates her win in the 1,500 meters during the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
BYU’s Anna Camp celebrates her win in the women’s 1,500 meters during the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Saturday, June 12, 2021, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
Thomas Boyd, Associated Press

Before we put BYU’s 2021 track and field/cross-country seasons to rest, it’s a good time to look back at what just happened. By any standard it was a remarkable run, from the NCAA indoor track championships in March to the NCAA cross-country championships a few days later to the NCAA outdoor championships in June to the U.S. Olympic Trials a week later.

Who says so? The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named the BYU women’s program as the NCAA Division I Program of the Year, an honor given to the school with the highest combined finish in the NCAA championships for cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. BYU was the only team in the nation to finish in the top 10 in the championships of each of those sports — first in cross-country, seventh in the indoor championships, 10th in the outdoor championships.

“That one is huge,” says Diljeet Taylor, the co-director of track and field at BYU. “It was pretty much a dream season (for) a coach.”

The men’s program came within .5 of a point of winning the same honor.

“That is an amazing year,” says Eyestone. “I believe we had the most or second-most athletes represented at the Olympic trials. What I was most pleased with is that we had representation in the NCAA championships in every event group (throws, jumps, sprints, relays, distances, middle-distances).”

Roll the highlight video, please:

Anna Camp storms the homestretch to win the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA outdoor championships.

Courtney Wayment finishes fourth in the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Trials in a time that makes her the ninth fastest American ever, missing a trip to the Olympics by one place.

Wayment runs the year’s fastest collegiate time in the nation for both the indoor mile and the 3,000, and then outdoors she runs the ninth fastest time ever by a collegian at 5,000 meters, but the latter doesn’t even count as a school record because ....

• … in an earlier heat in the same meet, teammate Whittni Orton runs even faster, becoming the seventh fastest collegian ever at 5,000 meters — a time that ends up as the fastest in the nation for the year.

Wayment wins the 3,000-meter run at the NCAA indoor track championships and joins Lauren and Alena Ellsworth and Claire Seymour to win the distance medley relay with the second fastest time in NCAA history.

Conner Mantz wins the NCAA cross-country championships in March and then finishes second in the 10,000-meter run at the NCAA championships and fifth in the Olympic Trials.

Casey Clinger and Lucas Bons become only the second and third athletes ever to run sub four-minute miles on Utah soil (Bons ran a 3:55.45 mile indoors, as well).

• Michael Bluth runs a sensational time of 45.13 to place second in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA West Region meet.

Zach McWhorter becomes the first Utah athlete to scale 19 feet in the pole vault (19-0 ¾), which earns him second place in the indoor NCAA indoor championships.

• In all, BYU wins five national championships in four months: Camp in the outdoor 1,500; Wayment in the indoor 3,000; Mantz in cross-country, the indoor distance medley relay; and the women’s team cross-country title. As mentioned, the women also finish seventh in the NCAA indoor track championships and 10th in the NCAA outdoor track championships. The men’s cross-country team, the 2019 NCAA cross-country champs, finished seventh after one of its top runners collapses within sight of the finish line.

• The Cougars qualifiy 69 athletes for the NCAA West Region meet, tying Oregon for the most in the nation.

• Fifteen current BYU athletes qualify for the Olympic trials, and six of them advance to the semifinals and/or finals.

• Fourteen school records are set or reset. Orton smashes the school record at 1,500 meters and teammate Camp breaks the record twice at the NCAA championships. The women produce 18 marks that crack the school’s top-five list for individual events and relays, the men 14. The vast majority of them are in the distance and middle-distance events, which isn’t surprising considering that Ed Eyestone was an Olympic distance runner and Taylor an All-American middle-distance runner.

Looking ahead, several of the school’s top athletes return. Mantz has another season of eligibility in cross-country and track; Camp has one season of cross-country eligibility remaining; Wayment has one more season of indoor and outdoor track; Orton has one season of cross-country remaining, but it’s uncertain if she will turn professional instead. According to their coaches, all four of these athletes plan to turn professional when their eligibility expires.

It was revealing that BYU’s white jersey seemed to turn up everywhere at the NCAA meet and, to a lesser extent, the Olympic trials. The Cougars made their presence known this season.


BYU outdoor school records set in 2021

Men

Michael Bluth — 400 meters — 45.13

Conner Mantz — 5,000 meters — 13:24.78

Zach McWhorter — Pole vault — 18-8 1/4

Cameron Bates — Javelin — 253-2

Women

Jaslyn Gardner — 100 meters — 11.35

Whittni Orton — 1,500 meters — 4:09.31

Anna Camp — 1,500 meters — 4:09.22

Anna Camp — 1,500 metersm — 4:08.53

Whittni Orton — 5,000 meters — 15:12.91

Courtney Wayment — Steeplechase — 9:31.37

Courtney Wayment — Steeplechase — 9:27.17 •

Courtney Wayment — Steeplechase — 9:23.09 •

Ashton Riner — Javelin — 188-0

Alena Ellsworth — 4x400 relay — 3:33.30

Lauren Ellsworth

Meghan Hunter

Claire Seymour

  • Times from the post-collegiate season (in this case the U.S. Olympic Trials).