With Fletcher leading the way BYU cross country finds its groove

November 6, 2015

Aaron Fletcher running

Aaron Fletcher

Go ahead, poke fun and call him grandpa or old man, Aaron Fletcher of Anchorage has heard it all.

At 24, he gets plenty of grief from his cross-country running teammates at Brigham Young University. Some of them were in middle school when he graduated from South High in 2009.

Last week, he was part of a historic 1-2 punch when he and fellow Alaskan Allie Ostrander, a freshman at Boise State University, each won individual conference championships on consecutive days.

“Allie has been running so well. It’s impressive to watch her from afar,” Fletcher told me. “She probably doesn’t even know who I am.”

He laughs.

“I am a little bit older than her.”

Fletcher, of course, missed two years of college cross country while serving his Mormon mission as BYU tradition. He is now a senior and has made a dramatic improvement from last season, taking the helm as the team’s top runner and undisputed leader.

He has collected four top-10 finishes in five races, highlighted by his first career victory at the West Coast Conference championships. He also helped BYU win the team title with a near-perfect score.

“I think it started over the summer when he took ownership of being one of the team captains,” BYU coach Ed Eyestone told the school’s website. “He has taken that responsibility very seriously. He trained very hard during the summer months and he was in great shape at the start of the season. I’m very proud of him. It’s great for him to win the conference championship as a senior. It’s a really nice feather he can put in his cap.”

Fletcher had finished second three times at the state meet in high school and he had another two runner-up finishes this year, so for him to get the win on a major stage was the ultimate breakthrough moment.

“Right from the start I put myself in the front,” he said. “Throughout the race we started making moves, had a little breakaway pack and before I even knew it I was kind of just pulling away.

“I can remember coming down the home stretch. I took a tiny peak behind me around a corner to gauge my lead and was surprised by how much room I had … it was kind of surreal.

“It hasn’t sunken in yet. I won the conference championship. It’s’ pretty crazy.”

Two years ago, Fletcher was part of the BYU team that placed fourth at the NCAA Championships. “I was kind of a second-string guy.”

This time around he’s the leader of the pack.

“It makes it special,” Fletcher said. “It’s good to have that swagger back with our program.”