Pre-Nationals Men — A Matter Of Kicks

Stanford’s Grant Fisher mistimed his kick, but held off the Northern Arizona pair of Tyler Day (r) and Matthew Baxter. (SEAN HARTNETT)

Verona, Wisconsin, October 13—Timing is everything.

Just ask BYU’s Rory Linkletter, who accidentally-on-purpose timed his kick just right to hold off an equally fast-closing Aidan Tooker of Syracuse to win the White race at the Pre-Nationals by a half-second in 23:54.4.

Except when it isn’t.

Just ask Stanford’s Grant Fisher, who admittedly mistimed his kick and moved too early but still hung on for a gnat’s eyelash win over Northern Arizona’s Tyler Day in the Cardinal race, with both clocked in 23:48.8.

As tight as the individual races were, the battles for the team titles were anything but as top-ranked Northern Arizona and second-rated BYU, seeded in different races, gave no quarter in taking a bundle of ranked teams to school over the 8K route.

Two-time defending national champion NAU, with Matt Baxter back in the mix after sitting out the team’s Nuttycombe Invite win here two weeks earlier, surprised no one with another dominating effort in the Cardinal race. Mike Smith’s Lumberjacks went 2-3-7-14-15 (18-21) for 41 points, 43 better than runner-up Stanford and nearly 70 up on 3rd-place Colorado (110). Oregon (152) and Wyoming (191) were next in the 35-team field. How deep is the Flagstaff crew? Even without their first two they would have had a 15-point win.

BYU subsequently did its Mountain Region rivals even better in the White race, placing 1-4-5-7-12 for 29 points, light years ahead of Washington (106), Syracuse (195), UCLA (205) and Notre Dame (220).

So while the team races soon evolved into battles for 2nd, the individual ones were far from it. NAU’s 7 ran near the front from the get-go in a Cardinal-race “lead pack” that seemed to encompass the entire field. But many of the usual suspects—Day, Baxter and Peter Lomong, Fisher and teammate Alex Ostberg, Campbell’s Lawrence Kipkoech and Colorado’s Joe Klecker & Ryan Forysth—were all in the mix early.

“I mistimed my kick a little bit,” Fisher said of taking the lead coming up the long finishing straight and then hanging on for dear life. “I thought I was in a little better kicking shape than I was, and almost paid for it at the end, but it’s just a reminder that I’m not the only guy in this field who can kick. I have a little more confidence in myself this year. There are a lot of guys who can grind in this race. I didn’t want to let [the NAU guys] go this time [as in the ’17 NCAA]. This isn’t the end goal but this is a good confidence-builder.”

Linkletter praised frosh teammate Conner Mantz, who for the bulk of the race appeared destined for an almost wire-to-wire win, and with Washington’s Tibebu Proctor his only late-race challenger, had built a 15-18m lead on the chase pack, which eventually reeled the duo in. It made for a blanket finish, with the top 7 all within 2½ seconds.

“That’s so him, he’s a grinder,” Linkletter said of Mantz. “I consider myself a speed guy but I’m trying to become a grinder like him. He inspires me. It never goes the way you think. It was chaos. I didn’t know who was going to come out on top in that bloodbath, like with 10 or 11 athletes. I didn’t expect to win but I was thinking I’d be in that situation.

As a “speed guy,” Linkletter had confidence in his kick, but in the mad dash to the finish, he knew anything could happen. “It was like arms, arms, arms,” he laughed. “I don’t think for a second I was thinking about the win; just to beat as many people as possible. I feel more mentally prepared for nationals. I’m a little more level-headed in my approach and feel that will lend itself to a more even-keel performance.”

Tooker, who’s assumed Justyn Knight’s mantle as Syracuse’s leader, almost got his BYU rival. “I tucked in and bided my time,” he said. “I let people bring me up to the lead, but I’m not disappointed.”


PRE-NATIONALS MEN’S RESULTS

Verona, Wisconsin, October 13 (8K)—

White Teams

1. BYU 29; 2. Washington 106; 3. Syracuse 195; 4. UCLA 205; 5. Notre Dame 220; 6. Air Force 231; 7. Purdue 234; 8. Indiana 298; 9. Portland 322; 10. Washington State 326; 11. Wake Forest 384; 12. New Mexico 404; 13. Harvard 407; 14. Miami/Ohio 419; 15. Louisille 430; 16. San José State 447; 17. USF 452; 18. Minnesota 463; 19. Montana State 494; 20. Weber State 509.

White Individuals

1. Rory Linkletter’ (BYU) 23:54.4; 2. *Aidan Tooker (Syr) 23:54.9; 3. *Chris Olley’ (USF) 23:54.9; 4. ***Conner Mantz (BYU) 23:55.5; 5. **Clayson Shumway (BYU) 23:55.7; 6. **Tibebu Proctor (Wa) 23:56.2; 7. Connor McMillan (BYU) 23:56.9; 8. ***Emmanuel Cheboson’ (Louis) 24:00.6; 9. *Jaret Carpenter (Pur) 24:00.9; 10. *Carlos Villarreal’ (Az) 24:01.0;

11. *Tanner Anderson (Wa) 24:01.5; 12. Clayton Young (BYU) 24:03.7; 13. **Yared Nuguse (NDm) 24:03.7; 14. **Talon Hull (Wa) 24:05.7; 15. Mickey Davey (AF) 24:06.9; 16. *Kyle Mau (In) 24:07.5; 17. *Jose Pina (SJSt) 24:07.9; 18. ***Zach Facioni (WF) 24:08.7; 19. Azaria Kirwa’ (Lib) 24:10.0; 20. *Jacob Heslington (BYU) 24:10.8;

21. **Hugo Milner (Harv) 24:11.8; 22. Michael Somers (Port) 24:12.6; 23. **Andrew Alexander (NDm) 24:14.4; 24. ***George Kusche (Nb) 24:15.3; 25. **Garrett Reynolds (UCLA) 24:15.5; 26. Chandler Teigen (WaSt) 24:16.0; 27. Trevor Siniscalchi (AF) 24:17.1; 28. **Brody Smith (Pur) 24:17.5; 29. Kyle Mattes (IlSt) 24:18.7; 30. *Colin Burke (UCLA) 24:19.1;

31. **Curt Eckstein (Pur) 24:19.4; 32. *Ty Mogan (MtSt) 24:19.9; 33. **Alec Basten (Mn) 24:20.4; 34. Fred Huxham (Wa) 24:21.4; 35. **Noah Affolder (Syr) 24:26.3; 36. ***Danny Kilrea (NDm) 24:26.7; 37. *Kieran Tuntivate (Harv) 24:26.8; 38. Toby Cooke (NM) 24:28.4; 39. Emmanuel Rotich’ (Tul) 24:29.1; 40. *Christopher Torpy (Miami (Oh) 24:29.8;

41. Mahmoud Moussa (Wa) 24:30.8; 42. Jack Rowe’ (USF) 24:31.1; 43. Iliass Aouani’ (Syr) 24:31.8; 44. *George Gleason (UCLA) 24:32.9; 45. Tom Nobles (Char) 24:34.0; 46. ***Amir Ado (WaSt) 24:35.8; 47. Akis Medrano (InSt) 24:36.0; 48. Nathan Thomas (AF) 24:36.2; 49. **Albert Kosgei’ (Louis) 24:37.7; 50. **Mark Freyhof (Nb) 24:38.2.

Cardinal Teams

1. Northern Arizona 41; 2. Stanford 84; 3. Colorado 110; 4. Oregon 152; 5. Wyoming 191; 6. Colorado State 194; 7. Mississippi 220; 8. Furman 231; 9. Gonzaga 307; 10. Southern Utah 310; 11. Michigan 338; 12. Utah State 383; 13. Wisconsin 396; 14. NC State 423; 15. Cal Poly 456; 16. Iowa 511; 17. Belmont 535; 18. Cal 573; 19. Campbell 577; 20. Kansas 580.

Cardinal Individuals

1. Grant Fisher (Stan) 23:48.8; 2. Tyler Day (NnAz) 23:48.8; 3. Matthew Baxter’ (NnAz) 23:49.4; 4. Aaron Templeton (Furm) 23:51.0; 5. *Joe Klecker (Co) 23:55.1; 6. Lawrence Kipkoech’ (Camp) 23:56.4; 7. Peter Lomong (NnAz) 23:57.2; 8. *Alex Ostberg (Stan) 23:57.5; 9. **Amon Kemboi’ (Camp) 24:00.3; 10. Ryan Forsyth (Co) 24:01.0;

11. **Alek Parsons (Stan) 24:01.6; 12. *Paul Roberts (Wy) 24:08.2; 13. *Aidan Reed (SnUt) 24:09.3; 14. *Geordie Beamish’ (NnAz) 24:10.9; 15. **Luis Grijalva’ (NnAz) 24:12.4; 16. *John Dressel (Co) 24:14.7; 17. James West’ (Or) 24:14.7; 18. **Blaise Ferro (NnAz) 24:15.0; 19. Cole Rockhold (CoSt) 24:18.4; 20. Carson Hume (CoSt) 24:20.8;

21. ***Ryan Raff (NnAz) 24:22.3; 22. Eric Hamer (CoSt) 24:25.1; 23. Tai Dinger (Stan) 24:25.1; 24. ***Charlie Hunter (Or) 24:25.4; 25. ***Meshack Kipchirchir’ (Hof) 24:26.0; 26. **Waleed Suliman (Ms) 24:26.7; 27. *Kevin Lynch (UtV) 24:28.1; 28. ***Jacob McLeod (Belm) 24:28.5; 29. **Christian Ricketts (SnUt) 24:28.7; 30. *Christopher Henry (Wy) 24:29.1;

31. **Eduardo Herrera (Co) 24:29.3; 32. **Michael Coccia (Ms) 24:29.9; 33. Jamie Crowe (Lam) 24:30.5; 34. *Ryan Adams (Furm) 24:31.1; 35. *Farah Abdulkarim (Ms) 24:32.1; 36. *Harry Ewing (Wy) 24:33.2; 37. **Cooper Teare (Or) 24:33.4; 38. Blake Haney (Or) 24:33.9; 39. *Jackson Mestler (Or) 24:34.1; 40. ***James Mwaura (Gonz) 24:34.3;

41. Ryan Sullivan (Youngs) 24:34.4; 42. **Michael Vernau (Stan) 24:35.2; 43. **Nate Osterstock (SnUt) 24:35.8; 44. *Evan Jameson (SLO) 24:36.6; 45. *Daniel Hintz (Wy) 24:36.7; 46. ***Shuaib Aljabaly (Wi) 24:37.0; 47. *Jordan Rowe (Lam) 24:37.1; 48. ***Mario Garcia Romo (Ms) 24:37.7; 49. Kyle Thompson (Gonz) 24:37.8; 50. Ethan Gonzales (Co) 24:38.1; 51. ***D.J. Principe (Stan) 24:38.2. □

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