Hammer, Jones lead way for Lady Eagles at NCCAA Championship

OC freshman Layne Hammer (third from left, in maroon jersey) runs in the lead pack on Saturday during the NCCAA Championship in Cedarville, Ohio.
OC freshman Layne Hammer (third from left, in maroon jersey) runs in the lead pack on Saturday during the NCCAA Championship in Cedarville, Ohio.

By Murray Evans
CEDARVILLE, Ohio (Nov. 16, 2013) – With four freshmen among its six runners who started Saturday morning in the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship, there was quite a bit to learn about the Oklahoma Christian Lady Eagles.

One thing OC coach Wade Miller had reaffirmed is that his team has a bright future. Led by top-100 finishes by freshmen Layne Hammer and Katie Jones, the Lady Eagles came in 21st in the 31-team field despite their youth and the absence of one of their top runners, sophomore Tara Lewis, who sat out due to injury.

“I’m excited with this group,” Miller said. “They’re all really young. I told them … that everybody is coming back next year and we’re in a position to get better. Having that many freshmen in a lineup is sometimes difficult but Maria (Sargent) and Tavia (Hoheisel) and Tara all did a good job of being encouraging and being leaders. I think we’re going up from here for sure.”

On a cloudy 45-degree day with a 15-20 mph wind, Hammer, who has led the Lady Eagles all season, again was the team’s top finisher. The Greeley, Colo., product ran the 5,000-meter Elvin R. King Cross Country Course in 20:34.25, good for 93rd spot in the 227-woman race.

Four spots behind Hammer was Jones, from Juneau, Alaska, who ran a career-best time of 20:36.97. It was the first time all season she had held down the No. 2 spot for OC.

“I’m really happy with the way they ran,” Miller said. “Obviously, getting down to the end of the season, it’s very fatiguing to be at this point and they pushed through that. The weather wasn’t great. It was pretty windy, but they battled through that.”

Jones “ran a really controlled race. She was moving through the field after the first mile and really did a good job of being consistent with that.”

Another freshman, Sarah Cobb, just missed career-best by less than two seconds, posting a time of 21:17.19 to finish 137th. OC’s fourth freshman, Maci Rich, was 150th in 21:44.40.

Sargent, a sophomore, was 172nd in 22:27.94 while Hoheisel, a junior, was 193rd in 23:37.08.

OC posted a team score of 614. The Lady Eagles recorded their second-best team finish in their five trips as a squad to a national meet, topped only by a 14th-place finish at the NAIA Championship in 2005.

Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) won the team title with a team score of 49, followed by Azusa Pacific (Calif.) with 79 and OC’s Heartland Conference rival, Dallas Baptist (Texas), with 101. DBU’s Kelsey Bruce outdueled Roberts Wesleyan’s Rachel Prutsman for the win by .21 of a second, posting a time of 17:58.94.