The members of the Oklahoma Christian University 4×400-meter relay team became the school’s first Division II track and field All-Americans, after a sixth-place finish at the DII Indoor Championships in Birmingham, AL, March 11.
Juniors Sawyer Pehkonen and Landon Huslig, senior Josh Jones and freshman Jalen Brown made up the four-man team for the Eagles, who also broke the Oklahoma Christian school record with a time of 3:12.73.
“It feels great to end the indoor season like this,” Jones said. “Each of us knew our jobs and what we needed to get done in order to reach our goal. We watched the first heat run their race, saw the times they posted and knew we had a good shot at being All-Americans. Once Jalen crossed the finish line and I saw 3:12.73 pop up on the Jumbotron, I knew we had done it.”
By finishing in the top eight, the Eagles were awarded first-team All-American honors by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, which was announced March 13.
“We had some young talent make a huge impact this season, along with older talent improving from last year,” Pehkonen said. “We honestly did not expect this opportunity to be All-Americans. Our goal going into nationals was to secure a top-eight spot. Being seeded seventh was a little nerve-wracking, however, our confidence and training allowed us to grab sixth.”
Senior Layne Hammer finished her indoor career as a Lady Eagle at the meet, with a 16th-place finish out of 18 runners in the mile with a time of 4:58.44. The following day, she placed 17th in the 3,000-meters with a time of 10:01.54.
According to the Sports Information Office, by competing in the mile and 3,000-meter races, Hammer was the first Oklahoma Christian track athlete to earn a bid to the NCAA national meet in more than one event.
While five members of the Oklahoma Christian track team competed in Birmingham, the remainder of the Eagles and Lady Eagles competed in the Oklahoma Baptist Early Outdoor Invitational on March 9 in Shawnee, OK.
The Eagles grabbed second, third and fourth in the 1,500-meter race as senior Kyle Broaddrick ran a time of 4:07.53 for second, junior Emory Lobly took third with a 4:12.26 run and freshman Nathan Jennings posted a time of 4:12.45 to finish fourth.
Competing in his first collegiate outdoor meet, freshman Justin Steward’s jump of 6 feet, 8 inches in the high jump won the event, while also meeting the DII provisional qualifying standard. Fellow freshman Zac Johnson’s jump of 6 feet, 2 inches placed him second in the meet.
Sophomore Eli Sherril won the 100 meters with a time of 10.62 seconds before finishing third in the 200-meter race with a time of 21.48 seconds. Sherril and Stewart were both named the Great American Conference men’s track and field athletes of the week based on their performances in Shawnee.
The Lady Eagles 4×100 relay took third at the meet, while also breaking the school record with a time of 48.29 seconds. The team consisted of sophomore Kayla Parker and freshmen Lawanda Harvey, Ivy Lobley and Jordyn Williams.
Sophomore Maia Zeno won both the hammer and shot put, posting a throw of 43.63 meters in the hammer and 12.13 meters in the shot. Sophomore Alexus Wooly placed second in the hammer with a throw of 39.89 meters and senior Miranda Eikleberry took third with a throw of 39.57 meters.
The Lady Eagles also placed third and fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, with Lobley finishing third with a time of 15.15 seconds and Williams taking fourth in 15.39 seconds. Sophomore Leisa VanVooren won the 400 meters in 58.76 seconds.
“I think we can be even more competitive in the outdoor season,” Pehkonen said. “We have a ton of work to do, but plenty of room to grow.”
The Oklahoma Christian track and field teams will continue its outdoor season at the Oklahoma Baptist Invitational on March 25.
“We will take this momentum and run with it going into outdoor,” Jones said. “Ending indoor season like this is great, but we know that the outdoor season is just a couple of weeks away and we need to start focusing on those goals. We know our capabilities and the talent that is on this team. We just have to stay focused and determined throughout this outdoor season.”
Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information office.