(Photo by Michael Scott)
PROVO, Utah – Canadian Cougar Rory Linkletter returned on Monday from competing in the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships as a member of Team Canada, taking 76th place overall in the men's senior 10K race which took place on Sunday, March 26, in Kampala, Uganda.
In November, Linkletter was named to a six-man Team Canada squad that participated in the World Championships and placed 12th among 20 countries, with the BYU sophomore finishing 76th with a time of 31:54. He entered the race as the third-fastest Canadian, but crossed the finish line shortly behind the nation's top finisher to claim second place for Team Canada.
"I figured I would finish somewhere in the middle of the pack," Linkletter said. "Our top Canadian finisher passed me in the last kilometer, which stung, but I also passed quite a few of my teammates as well. I feel that I finished right where I forecasted I would finish. Of course, I wanted more, but you always want to stretch yourself as a runner; you are always reaching for more. That is what makes me excited for the next one, having had this experience."
Two years ago, Linkletter participated in the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships as a junior runner and took 86th overall for Team Canada. He said that having another opportunity this year to reach further, as well as represent his country, was just as special.
"I really enjoyed being with my teammates," Linkletter said. "Most of them were a little bit older than me, but there was still a good, young, hungry vibe in the group. At the qualifying race in Kingston, Ontario, we all crossed the finish line pretty close together, and so there was a strong team atmosphere at the World Championships, even though we don't really train together. There was a real brotherhood, and that is part of what wearing the maple leaf is."
This being his first time in Africa, Linkletter savored each minute he had not only to learn from the seasoned athletes around him, but from the experience of just being in Uganda.
"It was so surreal," he said. "Going to Africa and seeing a different part of the world, a part that you only hear about, was awesome. It's so different than you can imagine, and it was so cool to meet people in Africa and see what their culture is like."
As the Cougar runner has reflected on his experience in Uganda, he anticipates what the future holds for him. Surely, more opportunities to don the maple leaf await Linkletter as he continues his running career.
"I don't plan on getting worse," he laughed. "I was essentially one of the youngest runners going into the competition this year, and that is really promising to me. I have confidence that I will make more national teams. The one thing I thought a lot of on the way home, with all the travel, was just how much I want to do it again. I want to keep improving, climbing my way up and getting more competitive with running."
Also making the trip to Uganda was BYU head coach Ed Eyestone who was last fall named the coach of Team USA's senior men’s squad, a group that finished fifth overall. A two-time Olympian, Eyestone competed in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships five times as an athlete (1980, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986), claiming the bronze medal as a junior runner in 1980, the silver medal in 1983 and 1984 in the men's team event and the bronze medal in 1985 and 1986 in the men's team event. No longer a competitive athlete, Eyestone enjoyed this experience of representing his country in Uganda from a new perspective.
"It was an honor to be a part of the biggest single-event day of racing the world for this calendar year," Eyestone said. "I am always proud to represent my country, in whatever capacity I can. The actual hands-on coaching we did in Uganda was very limited, but we are their to make the athletes' lives easier. That is how I explained it to my guys. I was there to be a facilitator and help our team do as well as we could. If there was anything I could do, I told them I'd do it–even just carrying their sweats if they needed. Overall, it was fun to be able to do that in a coaching capacity for Team USA and help maximize our performance."
Eyestone also commented on the performance of Linkletter, for whom he was rooting at the World Championships despite wearing a different color uniform.
"Rory gave a tremendous performance, considering that this is his first real senior race," the coach said. "The downfall of many athletes running in their first senior race is to try to keep up with the athletes in the front of the pack, some of the best runners in the world. But Rory just ran his race. I think for him to finish mid-pack in such a quality field is very solid."
"When I first made the Canadian team in 2015," Linkletter said, "I thought it might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but having had the experience again this year of representing my country and competing internationally, I am just counting my blessings. It is so surreal."