By Murray Evans
JOLIET, Ill. (May 4, 2013) – Tara Lewis perhaps exceeded her expectations and Makenzie Brown really didn’t meet hers, but both posted solid performances for Oklahoma Christian on Saturday, the final day of the National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Lewis posted a personal best by almost 10 seconds – and came close to the school record in the process – while finishing seventh in the 1,500 meters, while Brown finished sixth in the discus to highlight the Lady Eagles’ outing at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
Also Saturday, OC’s 4x400-meter relay team – with yet another new leadoff runner in Kara Drewke – closed the meet with a fifth-place finish.
OC finished 16th in the national meet with 19 team points and likely would have finished several spots higher if not for a first-day injury suffered by Roz Hamilton while competing in the heptathlon. Azusa Pacific (Calif.) won the team title with 192 points.
“We’re pleased to be able to come away with what we did,” OC head coach Randy Heath said. “You always wish you could do more, but everybody feels that way. I’m real proud of them. Our group did well.”
Lewis’ time in the 1,500 was 4:46.85, 9.8 seconds better than her previous best this season. The freshman from Edmond hung with the lead group of runners until the final lap of the four-lap race and took such a big leap forward that it seems inevitable she’ll eventually break the school record of 4:45.43, set by Rachel Snider in 2010.
“She had a huge breakthrough today,” OC assistant coach Wade Miller said. “She’d been in the 4:56 range all year. She got a little sleep and she was able to perform really well when she needed to. As a freshman, that’s a big performance. We’re looking forward to the future, for sure.”
Lewis entered the race not ranked in the top 10 in the NCCAA in the 1,500 and might have caught some of her 23 competitors off guard.
“I was really relaxed and I wanted to try to get a better time than I’d had,” Lewis said. “I want to break a lot of school records and get up there nationally.”
Later in the afternoon, Lewis ran in the 800 meters and finished 16th among 25 competitors, posting a time of 2:26.46.
Brown had finished sixth in the 2012 NAIA Championships with a better throw than she posted on Saturday at the NCCAA meet. She wasn’t happy immediately after her final throw, but given a few hours to think about it, Brown had a different take.
Brown, a sophomore from Savanna who also is a backup center for OC’s women’s basketball team, was busy with that squad as it won a regional title and advanced to the NCCAA tournament. That meant she got a late start to the outdoor track season, and then she became sick, further limiting her opportunities to sharpen her throwing technique.
“I’m not sorry about going to nationals for basketball, because that was a great experience,” Brown said. “The weather was terrible this year and the whole track team suffered for that, because we didn’t get as much practice as we did last year, and the season was also three weeks shorter than it was last year. Then I got sick and I had to sit out a week and a half. … That affected me more than I thought.
“I think, considering the circumstances, I did exceptionally well, now that I think about it. I always expect more of myself. Going into this track season, I did expect to get first or second.”
Her best throw Saturday was 128 feet, 5 inches (39.15 meters). Hamilton also competed in the discus just two days after pulling up in the 200 meters during the heptathlon and was somewhat limited, but finished 17th among 23 competitors with a throw of 112 feet, 4 inches (34.24 meters).
The Lady Eagles’ 4x400-meter relay team overcame much adversity en route to finishing fifth in a time of 4:03.82. The foursome of Rebecca Bloodworth, Maegan Cowan, Somer Helms and Andrea Dennis had been together since the start of the indoor season, but an injury to Bloodworth resulted in Hamilton being tabbed for the leadoff leg.
Then Hamilton went down and on short notice, Wilmena Gley stepped in Friday and helped the team qualify for Saturday’s final, in which Drewke ran the leadoff leg and Cowan, Helms and Dennis filled their usual roles. That proved to be enough to earn the Lady Eagles some key team points, bumping them up two spots in the team standings.