#6 in 2013 – OCXC takes 4th in NCCAA after proving itself best in Heartland Conference

Roberto Diaz (right) and Bryant Keirns (left) finished first and second, respectively, at the Heartland Conference Championship.
Roberto Diaz (right) and Bryant Keirns (left) finished first and second, respectively, at the Heartland Conference Championship.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of posts recapping the top stories in Oklahoma Christian athletics during the 2013 calendar year.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 26, 2013) – It wasn’t quite another national-championship season, but Oklahoma Christian’s men’s cross country team proved itself best in the Heartland Conference in 2013 and remained among the elite squads in the National Christian College Athletic Association.

Led by a 1-2 performance at the conference meet by Roberto Diaz and Bryant Keirns, the Eagles’ sustained success was No. 6 on the list of top stories in OC athletics in 2013.

OC entered the 2013 coming off national titles in 2011 (NAIA) and 2012 (NCCAA), but looked to be rebuilding after losing three All-America seniors in Geoffrey Njonjo, Brayden Barrientez and David McWilliams. Still, led by Diaz and Keirns, the Eagles remained formidable.

Diaz won the Heartland runner of the week award four times and backed up that success in Mansfield, Texas, at the conference meet, in which OC was allowed to run for the first time. Diaz (who posted a time of 25:15.7 over the 8,000-meter course) and Keirns (25:19.7) ran away from the field to finish first and second, respectively. They joined seventh-place Brennym Kaelin in earning all-conference honors.

The Eagles weren’t allowed to compete for the team title, but if OC’s team score had been counted, the Eagles would have won.

Three weeks later at the NCCAA Championship in Cedarville, Ohio, Diaz was slowed by an injury and wasn’t at his best. But Keirns took up the baton and posted a fifth-place individual finish, earning All-America honors and leading the Eagles to a fourth-place showing as a team.

It wasn’t a national title, but it was the best team performance ever by the Eagles in a national meet, with the exception of the 2011 and 2012 squads. And with only one senior on the roster, the future appears bright for OC to continue to excel in the coming years.