Chance Hyatt never had a chance to really test himself against his rival since the beginning of the season.
Rocky Mountain’s Benson Koech and Hyatt ran different strategical races throughout the season, most recently when Hyatt was assigned to pace the rest of Carroll’s runners at the last meet of the year at the University of Great Falls. The two had been arguably the two best runners in the Frontier throughout 2016.
Friday at the Frontier Conference Championships, Hyatt and Koech went shoulder-to-shoulder for the majority of the race, a scenario Hyatt envisioned -- until Koech surged on the third lap of the four-lap, 8K race at Bill Roberts Golf Course.
“Sometime on the third lap, Benson decided to go,” Hyatt said. “Coach said, 'You have to beat him.'”
Hyatt did his best to stay with Koech, believing his advantage would culminate in the final 600 meters. Hyatt trusted his kick, and it rewarded him with the men’s individual title as he finished four seconds better than Koech. Hyatt won the race in a time of 25:01.99.
“I started accelerating,” Hyatt said. “I really started pouring on the gas with about 200 to go. Once I couldn’t’ see his shadow, I just went for it.
“I figured it would go like that. I did some mental training and envisioning of what to do.”
Hyatt entered the race with a plan to run 5:10 mile splits, hitting that mark until Koech’s push.
“Yeah, Chance ran great,” Morris said. “He was on pace for what we wanted him to do and then pulled away in the last 500. We didn’t know how the battle with Benson was going to go ... You knew who was going to take it out. It was a nice, even pace. He ran a smart race.”
Carroll’s Baird Linke finished in fourth with a time of 25:41.47. He was followed by Layne Ryerson (sixth, 25:50.64), Joe Mullener (26:34.37) and Ben Wood (17th, 27:07.19) to round out the Saints’ top five.
“Layne was pretty close to him and ran really well,” Morris said. “Joe, for our fourth guy, ran really well. They all really ran well.”
The Saints finished second overall to Lewis-Clark, just three points behind.(41-38). The second-place finish means Carroll will have to receive an at-large bid to reach the NAIA National Championship.
“I think we have a fairly good shot because I don’t think we were too far from being ranked,” Hyatt said. “I believe we have a fairly good shot, but nothing is guaranteed.”
New team rankings will be released Sunday, which should give the Saints a good idea if they will receive a bid to the championship. The official announcement of at-large bids will come Monday.