JOLIET, Ill. (May 1, 2013) – Oklahoma Christian established itself among the National Christian College Athletic Association’s elite track and field programs with a fourth-place finish in the NCCAA Indoor Championships in February.
During the NCCAA Outdoor Championships that start Thursday at Memorial Stadium, the Eagles will be missing several key members of the squad that fared so well indoors, but a top-10 team finish still is quite possible this time around, OC coach Randy Heath said.
“Team-wise, I think we can score enough to be in the top 10, if we get some big places from some of our guys,” Heath said. “I think that’s realistic. A top-10 outdoor for this group would be very good.”
Those who competed at indoor nationals but will miss the NCCAA outdoor meet include Brayden Barrientez, who redshirted during the outdoor season after having a hand in 30 of OC’s 79 team points in the February event. Out with injuries are senior hurdler Renaldo Garrett and freshman multi-event performer Austin Wallace, two others who scored points indoors for the Eagles.
But OC hardly is devoid of serious contenders, particularly in the middle- and long-distance running events. In no event will the Eagles be more loaded than in the 5,000 meters on Saturday, with five potential starters in Roberto Diaz, David McWilliams, Geoffrey Njonjo, Timothy Zuercher and Bryant Keirns.
Diaz ranks third nationally in the event, Njonjo sixth and McWilliams 20th, giving the Eagles three potential scorers in one race.
“We could get quite a few points in the 5K, for sure,” said OC assistant coach Wade Miller, who works with the Eagles’ middle- and long-distance runners. “I think all of those guys will benefit off the fast pace in the 5K, but you never know what you’re going to get in championship races.”
Diaz, a sophomore, also ranks sixth in the 1,500 meters and could score in that event, in which he’ll run with teammate Nick Stoots. The 5,000 and 1,500 both will be run on Saturday.
“I would be surprised if he doesn’t score in both of those,” Miller said of Diaz. “This year, he made that next level. After we get another summer under his belt, he could be something special. He already is great.”
McWilliams – a senior who will end his college career just a few miles from his hometown of Naperville, Ill. – and another senior, Njonjo, both also will run in the 10,000 meters on Friday. McWilliams’ season-best time of 31:18.24 ranks fourth in the NCCAA in the 10K.
Keirns, a freshman, ranks sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:45.84. Keirns will run in the steeplechase, then see how he feels before attempting the 5,000, Miller said.
In the 800 meters, freshman Ryan Lutterloh could contend, as he enters the meet ranked 13th. David Koistinen also will represent OC in that event. Brennym Kaelin will join Koistinen, Stoots and Lutterloh on the Eagles’ 4x800-meter relay team, which is ranked eighth.
“Lutterloh has had a really good freshman year,” Heath said. “He’s valuable to our two relay teams.”
Jamal George will run for OC in the shorter sprints, the 100 meters and 200 meters, while Thomas Ducat and Trent Parker will run in the 400 meters. Ducat, Lutterloh, Winston Ogletree and Parker will run on OC’s 4x400-meter relay team.
Ogletree, who is coming off a season-best performance at the Southwestern (Kan.) Relays last week, will compete in the 400-meter hurdles and ranks 17th in that event.
Larry Brown, who ranks second in the hammer throw with a season-best mark of 55 meters, figures to be the Eagles’ best hope in the field events. Heath said Brown “has not been at his best” because of a nagging injury, “but still, he’s ranked second, so maybe he’ll feel good that day and compete up there. That’s the goal.”
Senior Tracy Marshall, who scored in the long jump at indoor nationals, will try to duplicate that effort outdoors. He is ranked 10th in the NCCAA with a top mark of 6.98 meters. Nathaniel Donley (discus) and Myles Mukes (long jump) also will compete in field events for the Eagles.