All-American Miners find success at championships
Snyder finished in fourth, Saarel takes eighth in Eugene
June 13, 2017
Alyssa Snyder remembers running with Miner Ben Saarel when she was a sophomore at Park City High School.
Saarel was one of the nation's premier runners, locking up accolades such as the Gatorade Utah Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year and breaking numerous records.
The two crossed paths during workouts and even had the same running coach outside of school. Back then, Snyder never dreamed of becoming as successful as her male counterpart.
"We used to watch [Saarel] winning Arcadia and the Dream Mile and all these huge meets," Snyder said. "I was just like, 'Holy cow.'"
Last weekend at the NCAA Division-1 Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Snyder felt the same success Saarel is used to experiencing.
The former Park City graduates went to different colleges — Saarel went to Colorado and Snyder goes to Montana State — but both were at Hayward Field in hopes of becoming first team All-Americans (top eight finishers in each event).
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Saarel, now a junior, has been named All-American in other capacities but, until this year, never earned the first team distinction during the outdoor track season. By finishing eighth in the 1500-meter last weekend, Saarel added a new All-American honor to his list of accomplishments.
Snyder, who wasn't as heavily recruited or decorated as Saarel coming out of high school, surprised herself and those in attendance by finishing fourth place in the 10,000-meter race.
"I was definitely shocked," Snyder said. "I still don't think it's really set in completely. After, my coach asked, 'How are you feeling?' I was like, 'I can't believe that just happened.'"
Snyder was shocked because she didn’t perform as well at the Western regional leading up to the NCAA Championships. She said she also overcame expectations, since she was seeded 20th heading into the race.
She shaved more than 45 seconds from her personal record to run a time of 32:58.31. She pushed through her personal threshold to make history, she said.
Her time broke the school record, which she also held. It is the second-fastest time in Big Sky Conference history. Snyder's fourth-place finish is also the best NCAA Championship finish of any Montana Bobcat.
It was a good way for Snyder, who is planning to transfer to Utah State in the fall, to leave her mark on the Montana State program.
"Going into this season, I think a lot of people were kind of expecting me to finish it out, be a little bit complacent and ride out the last season with Montana State," Snyder said. "I would just kind of get it going again when I got to Utah State, but I figured I was going to have a last race with Montana State, so I might as well make it a good one."
The pair of Park City High School graduates weren't able to meet up in Eugene over the weekend, but both were excited to see a fellow Miner find success at the national level.
Immediately after Snyder became an All-American at Hayward Field, one of the sport's most-legendary venues, she returned home to Utah, where she will work and train throughout the summer. When she was picking a school to attend out of high school, she wanted to get out of Utah.
"I'm the first of my seven siblings to go out of state for school," Snyder said. "It was definitely pretty hard on the whole family. Living six to seven hours away was kind of rough. I'd see them over the summer and then I'd see them two to three times a year, maybe, other than that. The idea was really just to get closer to home. My sister is here and I can train with her a little more now and all my siblings will be within an hour or two.
“I looked at some other Utah schools and I took some visits, but Utah State was the best fit for me."
If Snyder picks up next season where she left off this year, the Aggies could be getting an immediate contributor to their distance squad. She was the highest-placing sophomore in her race at the NCAA Championships. And now that Snyder has a taste of success, she's hungry for more.
"I have two more years to race at Nationals," Snyder said. "I think, really, by my senior year, I hope to win a national title."
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