Former track and cross country star Ron Stangeland joined the list of prestigious athletes as he and six others were inducted into the Oklahoma Christian University Athletic Hall of Fame on Feb. 23.
The Ponca City-native said he originally planned to attend the University of Oklahoma before hearing about Oklahoma Christian.
“I did not grow up in the Church of Christ, so I had not heard of OC until my junior year of high school,” Stangeland said. “A student teacher from OSU told me about OC. He was student teaching at Ponca City High School and would come over to the track after classes to workout with me. He told me about OC and Ray Vaughn and thought it would be a good school for me.”
According to Stangeland, he began to hear about the Oklahoma Christian track program after watching alumnus Jeff Bennett in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.
“I knew Jeff had attended OC and I also had heard of Ray Vaughn,” Stangeland said. “Sometime during my senior year, I had decided I wanted to attend a small Christian school because my parents seemed to have had a positive experience going to a small Christian school at Bethany Nazarene College, now SNU. However, SNU did not have a track program then, so that’s when I began considering Oklahoma Christian.”
Upon his arrival on campus, Stangeland was faced with the decision to stick to long distance running or switch to the shorter distances.
“In high school, they wanted him to be more of a longer-distance runner, like in the two-mile race,” former cross country and track coach Randy Heath said. “So, he did that, but he always felt like he had leg speed. We kind of moved him down to the shorter-distance races in college and that really helped us because that’s where those relays that he was on became very good and accomplished a lot.”
During his time at Oklahoma Christian, Stangeland was a three-time NAIA All-American, a member of the 4×800-yard relay team that won the NAIA indoor title in 1976 and a member of the distance medley team that won the NAIA indoor title in 1977.
Stangeland also finished second in the NAIA indoor 1,000-meter in 1977, and was a member of the 4×880-yard relay that finished third in the U.S. Track and Field Foundation National Indoor Championship in 1976.
Besides boasting a successful track career, Stangeland was a two-time qualifier for the NAIA Cross Country Championship. Heath was Stangeland’s primary middle- and long-distance coach.
“His workouts could be very intense but he was always coming up with something new to keep the workouts from becoming routine,” Stangeland said. “As difficult as some of the workouts could be sometimes, I always looked forward to some new location Randy had selected for us to workout at or even some new workout. Randy became very much a part of our lives and at some point, became more than just a coach, but a close friend as well.”
Stangeland was joined by fellow former Oklahoma Christian track star Steve Wolf in induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Steve was such a tremendous runner and considering at one time he held so many of the distance records at OC, I wonder why he was not inducted many years ago,” Stangeland said. “However, I’m glad they waited until I got enough support to be inducted at the same time as him. Early in our freshman year, Steve suggested that he and I develop a competitive rivalry. However, despite our competitiveness with each other, we became each other’s biggest encouragers and supporters.”
Heath says he feels that the induction of Stangeland and Wolf was a long time coming.
“Normally, we have a five-year wait-out after athletes graduate, but we have not had consistency in being able to catch up with all of the athletes who deserve it,” Heath said. “When you get past a certain era, he and Steve just kind of got overlooked and we wanted to get them back because of all they accomplished.”
Stangeland’s son, Bryan, an Oklahoma Christian alumnus himself, said he was glad to see his father recognized.
“I like that my parents have a history there, because it made it more of a home for me,” Bryan said. “It was neat to see my father’s name in the entrance to the gym. I am proud of him. He’s someone who doesn’t really talk about his accomplishments, so it was nice to see him get recognized.”