Cross country power OC lands atop preseason Heartland Conference poll

OC's men's cross country team finished first in the Heartland Conference preseason poll.
OC's men's cross country team finished first in the Heartland Conference preseason poll.

WACO, Texas (Aug. 5, 2014) – Oklahoma Christian’s recent success in cross country – which includes two national titles in the past three years – has made believers throughout the Heartland Conference.

In the Eagles’ first season of eligibility for the NCAA Division II conference’s preseason poll, OC finished atop the poll in the nine-team league. That’s a sign the Heartland’s coaches and sports information directors – who vote on the poll – expect the Eagles to do what they did last year, which is finish first in the annual Heartland Conference Championship.

It’s a long time until that race – which is set for Nov. 8 in Wichita, Kan. – but OC coach Wade Miller has confidence in his squad, which has five of its top seven runners back from last season. The returnees include Roberto Diaz and Bryant Keirns, who finished 1-2 at last year’s conference meet in Mansfield, Texas, and Brennym Kaelin, who took seventh and also earned all-conference honors.

Also boosting OC’s chances are the return of sophomore Kyle Broaddrick from injury, the emergence during track season of junior Timothy Zuercher (the National Christian College Athletic Association runner-up in the 10,000 meters) and the addition of five promising freshmen to the roster.

“It’s an honor to be picked first by the coaches and SIDs in the Heartland,” Miller said. “We have quite a few untested young guys who will be expected to contribute so we have a long road before November. We are looking forward to the conference championship meet.”

OC received 13 first-place votes and 146 points in the poll. Newman (Kan.) received four first-place votes and was second in the poll with 134 points, just ahead of Dallas Baptist (Texas) with one first-place vote and 132 points. OC and DBU tied for first place at last season’s conference meet, although OC would have won a tiebreaker had it been necessary.

Lubbock Christian (Texas) was fourth in the poll with 91 points, followed by Texas-Permian Basin with 81, Rogers State with 77, Arkansas-Fort Smith with 70, Texas A&M International with 55 and Oklahoma Panhandle State with 24.

OC won the 2011 NAIA national championship and the 2012 National Christian College Athletic Association title before taking fourth last season at the NCCAA Championship in Cedarville, Ohio.

The Eagles will open their season on Sept. 6 at the Central Oklahoma Land Run in Edmond.