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Members of the Louisville men's cross country team pose with the championship trophy after winning the American Athletic Conference championship Saturday. North Harrison alums Jonathan Reynolds, fourth from left, and Tyler Byrne, far right, competed. Byrne was the top overall finisher. Photo by Ben Solomon/American Athletic Conference (click for larger version)

American got Byrne'd

November 13, 2013 | 11:29 AM

Tyler Byrne made sure that Louisville, competing in the school's first postseason competition in the American Athletic Conference, got started on the right foot, literally.

The redshirt junior, in addition to winning the individual conference title, clocked a school record 22:57.09 in the 8K to help lead the men's cross country team to the league's first postseason title on Saturday at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn.

"We saw very strong performances from both the men's and women's squads," Dale Cowper said following his first championship as a head coach. "Tyler took control of the men's race from the gun, and the rest of the group followed.

The women's team, meanwhile, finished second in its respective race, marking the program's highest finish since the 1996 Conference USA title.

Louisville, which secured its second men's cross country team title in school history and first since 2007, accomplished another historic first, as all five scoring runners earned all-conference honors.

Byrne, who earned all-conference accolades for the second time in his career, cruised to the win with his closest competition, teammate and runner-up Ernest Kibet, 30 seconds behind him. A Georgetown resident and North Harrison High School graduate, Byrne continued his stellar season and ensured his fifth consecutive top-20 finish this season with the victory.

"He's in a pretty good place physically, and he's maturing mentally," assistant coach Joe Walker said of Byrne's development. "The race went out fast, and he kept the pressure on through the middle of the race. It was a solid solo effort for a pretty wide victory margin. He's continuing to learn from the past, and he's putting the work in and making sure he's getting recovery time."

As has been the case all season long, Kibet displayed a solid performance and helped Louisville deliver the 1-2 punch in the individual standings. The sophomore's time of 23:27.36 ranks as the fourth-fastest 8K mark in school history.

Louisville freshman Jonathan Reynolds, also a North Harrison graduate, placed 38th with a race time of 25:28.25.

The Cardinals will return to competition on Nov. 15 for the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlottesville, Va. The University of Virginia will serve as the host institution for the meet. The top two finishing teams in each race automatically qualify for nationals.

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