2. BYU Cougars
- Casey Clinger (50 / 1:52 / 4:02 / 8:21 / 8:44 / 14:42)
- Patrick Parker (50 / 1:50 / 4:03 / 9:04 / 15:12)
- Mckay Johns (1:53 / 4:06 / 8:51 / 15:07)
- Haden Penrod (48 / 1:50 / 4:10)
- Brigham Cardon (50 / 1:50 / 4:16)
There are very few programs in the NCAA that are as team oriented as BYU is. It shows in the way they conduct their interviews, in the way that they train, and in the way that they race. The team culture, from an outsider's perspective, is contagious and head coach Ed Eyestone seems to be the common denominator behind that.
Maybe that team culture is why the boys from American Fork have opted to stay together and join the Cougars in the quest for their first NCAA cross country title. The trio of Clinger, Parker, and Johns were distance running stars in their final year of high school competition as they dominated the state of Utah in cross country and entered the conversation of the greatest high school cross country teams of the decade (and maybe of all-time).
Of course, the major upset loss to Bozeman at NXN raised some debate as to whether or not the best team really won the national championship. Flotrack published an article arguing that not enough entries were accepted into NXN, which statistically lessened the impact American Fork's top three would have had at a regular sized invitational.
Nonetheless, the American Fork boys kept their focus and eventually went on to eviscerate the 4xMile high school national record with a relay time of 16:41 which bested the previous national record by 11 seconds.
On an individual level, we still saw grand success these Utah natives. Clinger became the first ever two-time NXN champion while also gathering 10 Utah state titles between cross country and track.
Patrick Parker may be the greatest individual to never win a high school title, all because his teammate was one of the best ever. But Parker's win at the Adidas Boost Boost Games with a time of 4:03 validated his legacy in the Utah running community.
As for John Mckays, he may be the next guy behind Parker in the "best to never win a state title" discussion. He may "only" have 11 wins throughout his high school career, but keep in mind that a heavy majority of those races were against Parker and Clinger.
Obviously, this recruiting class isn't just about three guys from the same high school. Brigham Cardon and Haden Penrod are scary good half-milers who were ranked US #17 and #18 time this past spring with personal bests of 1:50. The addition of Cardon and Penrod will provide a huge boost to BYU in the mid-distances which have been responsible for developing 800 studs like Marcus Dickson, Connor Ross, and Abraham Alvarado. The emergence of BYU's middle distance program is very real and they are only getting better.
When was the last time BYU had a recruiting class that was this good coming out of high school? It's hard to say for sure, but what we do know is that the Cougars have even more weapons for coach Ed Eyestone to develop. With Rory Linkletter, Clayton Young, a huge group of talented underclassmen, and now these incoming recruits, BYU is a team that could very realistically win the cross country national title in the next few years.