Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Several Eagles athletes ended their indoor track and field season with top finishes during the NCCAA national meet over the weekend.
The men of the Oklahoma Christian University track and field team took home fourth place overall from within a field of 21 schools during the meet in Marion, Ind. Both the men’s and women’s team ended their events with notable finishes.
Senior Brayden Barrientez made many of the highlight finishes of the weekend. He ran in four races: two relays and two individual events. His success began with the help of fellow Eagles during the distance medley event on Friday.
Sophomore Roberto Diaz, freshman Ryan Lutterloh and senior Nick Stoots ran the first three legs of the race, with Barrientez coming in as the anchor to finish with a time of 10:15:92. This time beat the previous NCCAA record of 10:17.03, set by Indiana Wesleyan University in 2008.
The squad ended their run with a first-place finish, collecting a national title for the Eagles while also defeating 12 other schools that participated in the race. The Eagles last won a distance medley title in 1984 in the NAIA division.
Barrientez continued his role as anchor on Saturday during the 4×800 meter relay. The team ended in second behind Azusa Pacific University by less than a second, with a final time of 7:50.66.
Barrientez then took third in two individual events. He ended the mile run with a final time of 4:22.15, and later ended the 800 meters with a final time of 1:57.11. Lutterloh finished his run of the 800 meters in fourth place, right after Barrientez.
Coach Randy Heath commented on Barrientez’s performance during a meet that was particularly challenging.
“I thought he did a very good job,” Heath said. “Especially with how many different events he was involved in, that’s a lot of running for two days.”
Sophomore Sarah DiBiasi added to the point total for the Lady Eagles on Friday with her seventh-place finish in the pentathlon. Sophomore Cassandra Hallam also contributed to the total with her eighth-place finish in the 800 meters on Saturday with a time of 2:22.87.
The Lady Eagles 4×200 meter relay team ended in ninth place, one spot away from scoring position.
While Barrientez was a major contributor to the high overall placement for the Eagles, he was not the only member to grab points for the team.
Senior Geoffrey Njonjo ran the 5,000 meters with a final time of 14:47.98. His score broke the old NCCAA record by close to three seconds while securing a second place finish in the event.
Senior David McWilliams finished close behind Njonjo in the 5,000 meters at fourth place with a time of 15:09.52.
Freshman Austin Wallace tied for second in the pentathlon with a career-best total of 4,736 points. Wallace also placed third in the heptathlon, an event that he had only participated in twice prior to the national meet, with a total of 2,652 points.
“One of the hardest parts of the heptathlon was the 1000 meter race,” Wallace said. “They save the event till last, so you’re already worn out, but a lot of times the final placing can come down to that race, so it really counts for a lot.”
Diaz came out strong in the 3,000 meters with a second place-time of 8:20.59 after running with Barrientez in the distance medley. McWilliams and Njonjo proceeded to cross the line soon after Diaz, finishing in third and sixth place respectively.
In the long jump, senior Tracy Marshall managed to earn points for the team with a sixth-place finish, reaching 7.09 meters. Sophomore Bryant Keirns also earned points for the Eagles, ending in eighth place during the mile run with a time of 15:35.77.
Wallace later commented on the team’s thoughts after the meet concluded.
“Everyone seemed pretty pleased with the results,” Wallace said. “We came out and worked hard, and I think it paid off in the end.”
Overall, eight Eagles athletes earned at least one NCCAA All-America honor by finishing within the top three positions in their respective events. Heath later offered his thoughts at the conclusion of the meet.
“It was hard to predict how we would do coming in because of our lack of experience with the other schools that came,” Heath said. “But I think we did very well for ourselves at nationals.”
The end of the NCCAA national meet also marks the beginning of training for the 2013 outdoor season. Sophomore Riley Compton shed some light on the transition process.
“After nationals we’ll have about a week where the workouts are lighter,” Compton said. “After that, we’ll start fresh to get ready for the first outdoor meet in March.”
The Eagles will begin their outdoor season in Winfield, Kan. for the Southwestern College Invitational on March 14.