Photo by: Nick Conley
The Eagles track and field team wrapped up their indoor regular season this past weekend in Norman at the Oklahoma Baptist Indoor Invitational before heading to the NCCAA Championships this weekend.
Multiple Eagles achieved NCCAA-qualifying scores in different events with the championships on the near horizon.
In addition to the success in Norman, two Eagles runners also participated in the prestigious Tyson Invitational that took place on Friday and Saturday.
Sophomore Cassandra Hallam ran in the 880 yard event and managed a solid fourth-place finish.
Hallam’s time of 2:24.39 qualified her for the event in the NCCAA meet. It was also her top finish in the event for the season.
Junior Andrea Dennis also had a fourth-place finish during her sprint in the 200 meters. She ended with a season-best time of 26.77, but had already qualified for the NCCAA Nationals in the Missouri Southern Open Invitational.
Dennis later discussed how she felt about her performance.
“I felt like I preformed pretty well at the meet,” Dennis said. “A lot of us have already qualified for nationals next weekend, but this was a chance to improve our time and placement, and I was able to do both during the 200.”
The Lady Eagles mile relay team also posted a successful finish. The team, consisting of freshman Rebecca Bloodworth, sophomore Maegan Cowan, junior Somer Helms and Dennis, finished third in their heat with a season-best time of 4:07.00.
Dennis later compared her experiences in the two events at the Oklahoma Baptist University Invitational, in which she recorded season-best performances.
“I can run both, but I prefer the 200,” Dennis said. “It tends to be over too fast for much thought to be put into it, and if I do bad it’s just on me and not my other teammates.”
The men of the Eagles track and field team also finished well in several events. Sophomore Bryant Keirns finished second in the 3000 meters with a season-best time of 8:56.43. Sophomore Larry Brown also posted a season-best distance in the weight throw with a mark of 51 feet, seven and-one-fourth inches.
Brown’s performance also qualified him for the weight throw at the NCCAA National Championship.
Junior Winston Ogletree later qualified in the 200 meters with a time of 23.52, coming in 13th in the event overall.
Coach Randy Heath later commented on the overall performance during the Oklahoma Baptist Invitational.
“I think we performed very well this weekend,” Heath said. “It seemed like the team wasn’t even thinking about nationals, they were focused and looking to win all they could at OBU.”
Two Eagles athletes were absent from the Oklahoma Baptist Indoor Invitational while representing their team at the esteemed Tyson Invitational.
The meet took place in Fayetteville, Ark. over the weekend where senior Brayden Barrientez and sophomore Roberto Diaz ran in separate events over the weekend.
Barrientez participated in the mile-run during Friday’s portion of the meet. He faced off against a total of 34 runners, most of whom came from either NCAA Division I schools or experienced running clubs.
In the end, Barrientez came out in 13th place with a season-best time of 4:10.45.
Diaz ran in the 3000 meters on Saturday the following day. Out of 25 competitors, Diaz was the only NCAA Division II runner.
Diaz ended the race with a very impressive second-place finish, crossing with a season-best time of 8:16.41.
Athletes can carry motivation from more than just school pride. Diaz came into his race knowing not only that his competitors would be tough, but also that the race would carry more of a personal touch.
“Some of my old friends from UT had told me many times that I should try to make this invitational so I could race against them,” Diaz said. “Initially, I really didn’t think I would be able to make it, but ended up being invited and got the chance to race against a friend.”
The friend turned out to be sophomore Mark Pinales from University of Texas, one of the competitors participating in the 3000 with Diaz. Diaz described how the heat played out, including the tight finish that took the race down to the wire.
“It all came down to the last 600 meters,” Diaz said. “At that point I was able to pull ahead of him and ended up finishing two seconds faster in second [place].”
Pinales ended up finishing in third, behind Diaz. Diaz, meanwhile, crossed only two seconds behind the leader.
This weekend the Eagles will be heading to Marion, Ind. for the NCCAA national meet.
Eight women and 18 men in the Oklahoma Christian University track and field program have qualified to participate in various events during the meet.
Many athletes included in this total have qualified in multiple events, and many cannot participate in all of the events that they have qualified for. The final list that includes event placement for the athletes will be decided in a coaches meeting.
Heath addressed the overall feel of the team going into nationals, as well as their preparation.
“This is a good sized group we have going this year,” Heath said. “We are going into this treating it as a large invitational, and I think the team is definitely ready.”