OC women’s relay team looks to shine at NCCAA Indoor Championships

OC's Andrea Dennis (left) takes the baton from teammate Somer Helms in a 4x400-meter relay race earlier this indoor season. OC's relay team enters this week's NCCAA Indoor Championships ranked high in two events.
OC's Andrea Dennis (left) takes the baton from teammate Somer Helms in a 4x400-meter relay race earlier this indoor season. OC's relay team enters this week's NCCAA Indoor Championships ranked high in two events.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 13, 2013) – During the women’s indoor track and field season, Oklahoma Christian’s primary strength has been in the sprints and short relays.

So it’s no surprise that as the Lady Eagles prepare for the National Christian College Athletic Association Indoor Championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Troyer Fieldhouse in Marion, Ind., it appears their best chance to score team points will be in those events.

There’s reason for optimism. At last year’s NAIA Indoor Championships, the OC quartet of Andrea Dennis, Maegan Cowan, Somer Helms and Alyssa Garrett finished ninth in the 4x400-meter relay in a school-record time of 3:56.75, one spot out of All-America status.

Dennis, Cowan and Helms are back this year and freshman Rebecca Bloodworth has stepped in for the departed Garrett. Entering the NCCAA meet, OC ranks third nationally in the 4x200-meter relay (with a time of 1:48.30) and sixth in the 4x400 (with a time of 4:05.57).

The 4x200 will be run Friday night, with the 4x400 set for Saturday afternoon.

“Getting the baton around, probably being in the fast heat, that’s going to a good event for us (in the 4x200),” Heath said. “They’re experienced. That same group ran the 4x4 and improved their time greatly last week down in Norman to improve their ranking. We’re hopeful.”

All four of the relay team members also will run in individual sprint events – Bloodworth, Dennis and Helms in the 200 meters and Cowan in the 400 meters, along with teammate Wilmena Gley.

Of those, Dennis and Cowan would seem to have the best chance to score points for the Lady Eagles. Dennis will enter the meet ranked 15th in the NCCAA in the 200 with a top time of 26.77 seconds, while Cowan is 16th in the 400 with a season-best time of 1:01.49.

“We’ll see what happens there,” Heath said. “If they improve, they have a chance to score. It’s up to them that day.”

In the field events, OC will be represented by Katie Ostlund in the weight throw (she ranks 27th) and Sarah DiBiasi in the high jump (she ranks 19th), although DiBiasi might bypass that event depending on how the schedule is arranged for the pentathlon. Her season-best score of 2,523 points in that event ranks her 11th in the NCCAA entering the meet.

OC’s only middle-distance qualifier was sophomore Cassandra Hallam, who will run in the 800 meters at the meet. Hallam didn’t run an 800 this season until Saturday, when she posted a qualifying time of 2:24.39 at the Oklahoma Baptist Indoor Invitational. That time earned her a No. 17 ranking entering this week’s race.

“She kind of moved down in distance during the season,” said OC assistant coach Wade Miller, who works with the Lady Eagles’ middle- and long-distance runners. “I could see her racing well, especially in a championship meet, where it’s not always the fastest person who wins. Sometimes if it’s tactical, it’s really about who knows what they’re about and she’s a pretty savvy racer.”

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