By Murray Evans
JOLIET, Ill. (May 3, 2013) – Oklahoma Christian thrower Larry Brown walked around Joliet Memorial Stadium on Friday wearing a shirt that read, in part, “OC Field and Track,” because, as he says, “field always comes first.”
On this day at the National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Championships, the field guy upstaged – albeit barely – his track teammates. Brown was one of two OC competitors to earn All-America status, finishing second in the hammer with a throw of 170 feet, 2 inches (51.86 meters).
OC’s other All-American was senior David McWilliams. Competing in his final collegiate meet, just a short drive from his hometown of Naperville, Ill., McWilliams ran a tactically brilliant 10,000 meters and finished third in 31:18.36. Another OC senior, Geoffrey Njonjo, took eighth in the 10K in 32:57.10.
The Eagles’ 4x800-meter relay team of David Koistinen, Brennym Kaelin, Nick Stoots and Ryan Lutterloh barely missed All-America status, finishing a close fifth in 7:56.25.
But it was Brown, a sophomore from Shelbyville, Ind., who started the Eagles off in impressive fashion at their first NCCAA outdoor meet. His throw in the preliminary round put him in second place behind the eventual winner, Josh Kuusisto of Greenville (Ill.). Only one other thrower surpassed the 51-meter mark during the final round, leaving Brown in the runner-up position.
Kuusisto’s winning throw was 192 feet, 10 inches, more than 22 feet longer than Brown’s best.
“The field guys have it tougher (at the NCCAA meet) than anyone else,” Brown said. “There are a lot of good throwers here.”
For a few hours after Brown finished, the Eagles didn’t score any more team points. Then they came in bunches during the final three running events of the day.
OC’s 4x400-meter relay team didn’t score points – yet – but the Eagles assured themselves of a spot in Saturday’s final, finishing eighth in the preliminary round with a time of 3:28.02. Since the top eight places in any event receive team points, OC is guaranteed to score in the final.
Then, in the 10,000, two of the Eagles’ seniors ran tough and scored team points. Njonjo struggled with tightness in his back from about the one-mile mark on and was lapped twice by the eventual winner, Nathan Martin of Spring Arbor (Mich.), but held on for the eighth-place finish.
McWilliams settled into fourth place early in the race, hanging on the shoulder of Spring Arbor’s Kyle Anderson most of the way. On the final lap, McWilliams made his move on the backstretch and Anderson wasn’t able to respond, finishing more than three seconds behind McWilliams.
It was the sixth time in McWilliams’ OC career that he earned an All-America honor in track or cross country.
“Throughout the race, you could see that David knew that he had to keep contact with that guy and finish him off in that last lap, and he did,” Oklahoma Christian assistant coach Wade Miller said. “And I appreciate Geoffrey’s effort and tenacity to run through pain.”
McWilliams had many family members and friends in the stands – “I heard my name being chanted in 18 different places and that was really cool,” he said – and thought he heard his high school coach cheering him on at one point.
“The whole race, really, every time we’d come around to the start, (Anderson) would throw in a 15-meter surge,” McWilliams said. “I just had to stay focused. I had envisioned the race and every time I came by the 200-meter mark, I envisioned myself just relaxing and trusting God that He was going to provide the strength. After envisioning it so many times, I kept thinking about it. I got the sense that God was not going to let me fail.
“I knew (Anderson) was a strong runner and I knew if I waited too long, he’d have a strong finish, so I went in the wind when he was feeling it and blocked it off.”
OC took second in the 4x800-meter relay at the NCCAA Indoor Championships in February, but the Eagles overhauled their relay squad due to the absences of Brayden Barrientez (who redshirted during the outdoor season) and Roberto Diaz (who is focusing on individual events outdoors). OC’s new-look squad showcased the depth the Eagles have in the event, as they were in contention for a second-place finish until the final 100 meters.
“That’s how it goes in relays sometimes,” Miller said. “There was a lot of shuffling around. It was a really exciting race. Everybody represented really well. It was definitely a gutsy race by all of those guys.”
In the sprint preliminaries, none of OC’s runners were able to advance to the finals. Jamal George was 17th among 25 runners in the 200 meters in 22.74 seconds and 16th among 29 runners in the 100 meters in 11.23 seconds.
In the 400 meters, Thomas Ducat was 13th in the 29-man field in 50.55 seconds, while Trent Parker finished 25th in 52.32 seconds.
Winston Ogletree just missed qualifying for the 400-meter hurdles final, finishing 10th among 17 competitors in 57.00 seconds.