The biggest NCAA cross country meet of 2020 will be held on Saturday: the OSU Invitational in Stillwater, Okla. The fields are stacked, with the top three men’s teams from the 2019 NCAA Championships all competing: Colorado, Northern Arizona, and the defending national champions, BYU (read the LRC preview here). Most of BYU’s squad is flying to Oklahoma.
Most, but not all. 2018 All-American Clayson Shumway cannot travel with the BYU team to Oklahoma State because he is not currently taking classes. Instead, he is driving — a round trip of 2,240 miles — just so that he can get a chance to race on the course that will host the NCAA Championships in March.
We asked Shumway to tell us a little about his trip and how he plans to spend over 30 hours in his Hyundai Accent over the next four days.
By Clayson Shumway
October 15, 2020
The short answer of why I am driving to Oklahoma is that I’m not currently on the BYU team, but will be in the spring.
The long, and certainly long-winded answer is this paragraph, but it might be tedious so feel free to skip it. My original plan had been to graduate in December 2020, take a gap semester and start grad school in August 2021. However, my major was so short and NCAA requirements dictated that I graduate in April 2020. I was hoping to use my last cross country season and so I was going to do a post-baccalaureate semester in the fall, take a few more classes to prepare for grad school and call it a wrap in December. However, the NCAA postponed the season and ruled that athletes wouldn’t be required to take classes in the fall to be eligible in the winter/spring. I decided to take this semester as my gap semester and work, but still train so I could be ready in the spring. However, this requires that I not get the benefits of being on the team, including traveling with the guys.
I decided to make this trip because I miss racing, and Coach wanted me to take a look at the course. We don’t know if we’ll have the chance to get out there again before nationals, so he wanted to take this guaranteed shot. I reluctantly agreed, since it meant forgoing a trip to see Papa Links (HOKA NAZ Elite pro and BYU alum Rory Linkletter) out in Flagstaff.
It was really nice for [Oklahoma State] coach [Dave] Smith to allow me to race unattached, since I don’t believe I’d consider this trip worth it just to do an easy run around the course. As it was, I started getting cold feet when I looked for plane tickets, because they were more than I wanted to pay and driving 18 hours alone seemed daunting. Serendipitously, I mentioned this to Isaac Walker, the faithful freshman team manager, right after Coach had told him he wasn’t approved to go. All of a sudden I had a chauffeur/companion.
We’re planning on leaving Provo around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and after stopping to run in Grand Junction or Vail we’ll arrive at [2019 All-American and BYU alum] Danny Carney’s place in Littleton, Colo. This leg of the trip will take from seven-and-a-half to nine hours, depending on how quickly you drive and where the road is under construction. I’ve been ticketed for speeding twice in the last 10 months so I might try to keep the speed in check.
On Friday, we’ll leave Littleton at about 8:30 a.m. after a shakeout. I’ll probably stop to do a short run somewhere in Kansas (Wilson Lake looks nice, or maybe in Wichita) and then again once we arrive in Stillwater around 8 p.m. The drive is about nine hours, but with running and the time change it will push us later.
I’m not really sure how trying to hydrate for a race while road-tripping will go, but I anticipate stopping every couple hours, especially on Friday. We also have a lot of snacks, but I tried to get my typical pre-race snacks so I don’t arrive feeling like a bloated anthropomorphization of the Cheetos mascot.
Right after cooling down after the race we’ll head back to Colorado, spend the night in Littleton again, and then back to Provo on Sunday. Isaac has a date or something so we don’t get to let the grass grow under our feet.
My car doesn’t have a reliable audio port and being at the mercy of radio stations in the middle of rural Kansas is a chilling thought. I like country music, but there are only so many songs the radio plays and it’ll get old quickly. Isaac will also have to attend a few classes via Zoom and I hope to nap a decent amount in order to be well-rested for the race. Aidan Troutner told me that Isaac is a terrifying driver, however, so we’ll see if that’s possible. My car, a Hyundai Accent, is manual, and he said he’s iffy at best driving manual, but I figure Kansas is flat enough he should be fine once we’re clear of the mountains.
We brought All the King’s Men, Tales from Watership Down, and Watership Down, so we’ll probably spend the great majority of our time reading to each other.
Hopefully when the weekend is over I’ll have run quickly enough to make this all worth it. At the very least I’ll have a better idea of what to expect on that random Monday in March. As Littlefinger said, “Knowledge is power.” In the worst-case scenario, I took Monday off work so I can relax and recoup while drowning my sorrows with all our leftover snacks.
More: The Best NCAA XC Meet of 2020 Is on Saturday at Oklahoma State COVID-19 has given us a real treat as this weekend’s OSU Invitational will offer us something we wouldn’t get to see if it weren’t for the pandemic: a regular-season matchup between the sport’s top three men’s teams from 2019 NCAAs — BYU, NAU, and Colorado.
*MB: BYU vs. NAU This Weekend!