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Hammer advances to DII National meet, places 82nd

After missing qualifying for the NCAA Division II National Meet by four-tenths of a second in last year’s regional meet, senior Layne Hammer made it her goal to earn a bid in her last season as part of the Oklahoma Christian University cross country team.

With a 14th place finish at the South Central Region Championship on Nov. 5, Hammer earned that individual bid, becoming the second female Oklahoma Christian University athlete to qualify for a NCAA national postseason event.

Hammer placed 82th out of the 240-woman field in the national meet on Saturday in St. Leo, FL, with a time of 22:09.5, covering six kilometers. Going into the meet, she said her main goal was to make the All-American team, which would have required a top-40 finish.

“I am pretty excited and I think there is potential for me to perform well,” Hammer said. “Even though I am from Colorado, competing in Denver was tough because of the altitude gain, but going down to sea level will be nice because I am more used to the heat and humidity at this point.”

At the regional meet in Denver, CO, Hammer edged out the other Heartland Conference competition to earn the final individual qualifying spot with a time of 22:47 in the 6k. By placing in the top 25, Hammer earned her second straight All-South Central Region honors from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“She carried herself well throughout the race and was able to close well and hold off several challengers in the closing meters,” Head Cross Country Coach Wade Miller said. “She is a consistent competitor and knows how to get the best out of herself and that can give her an extra bit of confidence.”

Hammer finished second in the Heartland Conference Championships’ 6k in Mansfield, TX, on Oct. 22 with a time of 22:01.1.

As a junior in 2015, Hammer led the Lady Eagles in every meet, winning both the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree 5k in 18:53.4 and the Midwestern State Individual 6k in 22:51.5. Hammer became the program’s first NCAA All-Region select with a 14th place finish in the NCAA DII South Central Regional Championship in Canyon, TX, with a time of 21:51.30 in the 6k. She was also named All-Heartland Conference after placing 3rd in the 2015 Heartland Conference Championships in Laredo, TX, in 21:58.9 over six kilometers.

“Missing out on nationals last year was tough, but I did not really know what to expect out of that season, so just the success I had before regionals was exciting for me,” Hammer said. “Coming into this final season was a little complicated because I was injured last spring and was still building my base at the beginning of summer.”

In addition to injuries Hammer said she was also dealing with low iron levels as she trained for her senior season.

“On one hand, I wasn’t expecting the same success, but with it being my senior year, I really wanted it,” Hammer said. “After doing some road races before I came to school, I knew I wasn’t too far behind where I was the year before, so I did end up setting my sights on nationals, but did so hesitantly.”

In 2014, Hammer helped the Lady Eagles to a 6th-place team finish at the NCCAA Championships in Houghton, NY. The then-sophomore ran a season-best time of 19:32.9 to place 26th over five kilometers.

In her collegiate debut in 2013, Hammer finished 12th in the Central Oklahoma Land Run’s 5k in 20:09.91. During her freshman season, she led the Lady Eagles in every meet and was Oklahoma Christian’s only top-100 finisher in the NCCAA Championship, placing 93rd with a time of 20:34.25 in the 5k.

“I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Layne and I’m proud of what she has accomplished,” Miller said. “There’s so much Layne and the other seniors have done to help our program grow and I think their encouragement and support of the underclassmen is a continued investment in the development of our program.”

Hammer finished her time at Oklahoma Christian with a best collegiate time of an 18:14.38 in the 5,000-meter run.

“I like the fact that my last cross country meet for OC will be at nationals,” Hammer said. “I cannot really think of a better place to finish my collegiate career.”

With Hammers’ final meet now behind her, Assistant Cross Country Coach Kaili Tucker said the team is looking to build off the success of this season in preparation for next fall.

“We had a great season this year,” Tucker said. “We will be losing some seniors, but our freshmen were a big part of our success this year, too. I hope to continue with the momentum we have this year and get better in the seasons to come.”

Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information office.

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