Middle-distance, distance runners look to lead OC men’s track team

Nick Stoots is one of four returning indoor track All-Americans for OC in 2013.
Nick Stoots is one of four returning indoor track All-Americans for OC in 2013.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 9, 2013) – The core of a team that won a national cross country championship for the second time in as many years figures to grab more attention and honors for Oklahoma Christian during the indoor track and field season.

A handful of OC field competitors began in December, but for most of the Eagles’ 26 indoor track team members, the season will begin this Friday and Saturday at the Missouri Southern Open Invitational in Joplin, Mo.

The six-meet indoor season will conclude Feb. 15-16 at the National Christian College Athletic Association Championships in Marion, Ind. The outdoor season will begin about a month after that.

The Eagles have four middle-distance and distance runners who have earned NAIA All-America indoor track honors during the past two seasons – Geoffrey Njonjo, Brayden Barrientez, David McWilliams and Nick Stoots. Njonjo, Barrientez, McWilliams and Roberto Diaz each earned NCCAA All-America cross country honors in November in leading the Eagles to the national title.

During track, McWilliams, Njonjo and cross country team members Bryant Keirns, Tim Zuercher and Trent Stephens will specialize in long-distance track races while Barrientez, Diaz and Stoots will run in middle-distance events ranging from 800 to 3,000 meters.

Ryan Lutterloh didn’t run cross country but could contribute on the 4x400-meter, 4x800-meter and distance medley relay teams.

“That’s a good nucleus of people who can run the middle distances for our DMR, our 4x8, things like that,” Heath said. “Then we’ve got a good number who can run the longer distances.”

The Eagles will have some field-event performers capable of strong performances as well. Junior Larry Brown earned NCCAA student-athlete of the week honors after recording top-10 efforts in the weight throw and shot put during an early-bird meet at Missouri Southern last month. Sophomore Connor Lankford also could contribute in the throws.

Tracy Marshall, a first-team Capital One Academic All-American in 2012, figures to be among the NCCAA leaders in the long jump and triple jump, while Adam Zolman will be the Eagles’ first pole vaulter in a few years. Zolman finished third in the event in a Texas Class 4A region meet last spring with a vault of 14 feet, 6 inches.

Freshman Austin Wallace, a versatile performer in hurdles and relays at Deer Creek High School in Edmond, is gearing up for a run at the indoor heptathlon and, during outdoor season, the decathlon.

“He’ll do a lot of different events in the meets that we go to, then he’ll do some special multi events,” Heath said.

A redshirt freshman, Jamal George, could contribute in the sprints. OC’s top hurdler, Renaldo Garrett, has used up his indoor track eligibility but will return for the outdoor season.

Heath thinks a top-10 NCCAA indoor finish is a distinct possibility.

“There have been more teams that have joined the NCCAA this year, which makes it interesting,” Heath said. “It would be realistic to say we’re top 10 or better, maybe in the top five for men, once all is said and done.”