OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 19, 2014) – With a young and mostly inexperienced squad – outside of a couple of key events – Oklahoma Christian’s women’s track and field team has no grandiose expectations entering this weekend’s National Christian College Athletic Association Indoor Championships.
The two student-athletes who scored points at the NCCAA meet last year won’t be competing this year – one (middle-distance runner Cassandra Hallam) is no longer with the program, while the other (Sarah DiBiasi) didn’t compete in the pentathlon during the current indoor season.
At this year’s NCCAA meet – set for Friday and Saturday at Olivet Nazarene University’s Perry Student Life and Recreation Center in Bourbonnais, Ill. – the Lady Eagles could potentially contend for team points in two relays, the weight throw and possibly the 200 meters. But the primary goal of the weekend will be to gain experience and knowledge for the future, OC coach Randy Heath said.
“We look at this meet, as we’re in transition (into NCAA Division II) as a travel-team invitational,” Heath said. “Not everybody we take is going to score points, but all of them have qualified to be there, so it’s a kind of reward.”
OC’s best chance to score team points figures to be in the 4x200-meter and 4x400-meter relays. The quartet of Rebecca Bloodworth, Wilmina Gley, Somer Helms and Andrea Dennis ranks fifth in the 4x200 (with a top time of 1:48.26) and 10th in the 4x400 (4:08.83). The meet will be scored through eight places, giving the Lady Eagles a legitimate shot for points in both events.
“That’s really what we’re loading up for,” Heath said of the relays.
Those four sprinters also all qualified for the 200, with Dennis (26.96 seconds) and Bloodworth (26.99 seconds) ranked 18th and 20th, respectively, entering the meet. The eighth-ranked runner entering the meet had a top time of 26.45 seconds, meaning the OC runners would have to make sizable jumps to contend.
Sprinters Jerisha Fields and Kara Drewke also will make the trip for the Lady Eagles.
OC will have two competitors in the weight throw, sisters Miranda Ostlund and Katie Ostlund. Miranda Ostlund, a freshman, has a top throw this season of 46 feet, 8¾ inches (14.24 meters) to rank 12th, while Katie Ostlund, a junior, is ranked 21st with a season-best mark of 41 feet, 4½ inches (12.61 meters).
“Miranda is a little inconsistent as a freshman, but if she happens to be on and everything goes well, she could possibly make the finals,” Heath said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”
Among OC’s group of middle-distance and distance runners, three qualified for nationals – Maci Rich and Layne Hammer in the mile and Katie Jones in the 5,000 meters. All are freshmen, with their only national-level experience coming back in November at the NCCAA Cross Country Championship in Cedarville, Ohio.
Rich is ranked 47th in the mile (5:30.55) while Hammer is 52nd (5:33.12). Jones cut almost 29 seconds off her personal-best time in her last race, finishing the 5,000 at the Oklahoma Baptist Indoor Invitational this past Saturday in 19:50.27. She ranks 30th in the NCCAA in the event.
“The experience they’ll get from racing at a national championship will be really valuable,” assistant coach Wade Miller. “They’ve been training really well. They qualified and half the battle as a freshman is getting that experience. They can just get in there and mix it up and race hard.”