By Murray Evans
CEDARVILLE, Ohio (Nov. 15, 2013) – For the second straight year, Oklahoma Christian’s women’s cross country squad enters the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship banged up, but the Lady Eagles already are ahead of 2012 in one important area – they can at least field enough runners to post a team score.
Six OC runners, or two more than last year, will toe the line on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. local time (9 a.m. Central time) at the Elvin R. King Cross Country Course. The race-time temperature should be in the mid-to-upper 40s with partly cloudy skies.
OC will be missing its top finisher from last year’s race, sophomore Tara Lewis, due to injury but has two returnees – Maria Sargent and Tavia Hoheisel – to go along with four freshmen in Layne Hammer, Sarah Cobb, Maci Rich and Katie Jones.
The experience of Sargent and Hoheisel has been key since the team arrived in southern Ohio, OC coach Wade Miller said.
“They were able to show the girls the course and kind of make some points about how the race played out last year and where they need to be focused in particular situations,” Miller said. “I think having that experience around is very beneficial. The younger girls, I think they’re excited. They’re ready to race.”
Had the Lady Eagles been able to field at least five runners last year, it’s likely they would have finished among the top 10-15 squads. That’s certainly possible again this season, but with so many freshmen in the lineup, what might happen is somewhat unknown.
Hammer has been OC’s consistent No. 1 runner all season and earned a NCCAA student-athlete of the week award after a strong showing in the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark. She finished 18th in the Heartland Conference meet three weeks ago in Mansfield, Texas.
Cobb was 41st in the conference meet, Rich 48th and Jones 53rd in the 83-woman field. Last year, 35 teams and 255 runners competed in the NCCAA race, and if the entry numbers are comparable this year, it will be the largest field in which any of OC’s freshmen have run at the collegiate level.
“We’ll see how they perform,” Miller said. “I think they’ve prepared well. They’re fit right now and they’re confident, so I think it really comes down to whether they can execute in the race and I feel like they can.
“We haven’t raced a lot of the teams that are here, so I’m not really sure what everybody else is bringing to the table. As long as we go out and perform well, then it will be a good day.”
The course is really good – one of the best that we’ve run on all year. The weather looks like it should be good so I’m excited to get to racing tomorrow.