Eagles Run Away with Cross Country Championship
The scenario Oklahoma Christian cross country head coach Mark Thompson had pictured before the season happened in November.
Thompson hadn’t shied away from talk that his Eagles could win the NAIA men’s national championship, and they went out and did so in dominating fashion on a brisk fall day at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
“We thought going in, if we really executed well, we’d win, and we executed well, better than I expected,” Thompson said.
With three runners – Silas Kisorio, Geoffrey Njonjo and David McWilliams – finishing in the top 20, the No. 1-ranked Eagles posted a team score of 93, well ahead of second-place California State-San Marcos, which finished with 188.
The national championship was the first in the OC cross country program’s history and the fourth in university history in any sport. OC won the men’s tennis title in 2003 and men’s golf titles in 2009 and 2011.
OC’s previous best national finish in men’s cross country was fifth in 1976.
“In a race like this, you expect a few guys to run well and a few guys to not have their best day,” said Thompson, who was named the NAIA coach of the year. “I don’t think that happened. Really, one through seven, we ran about as well as we could have. There were maybe a few points here or there, but we didn’t leave many points on the course.”
The Eagles didn’t wait long after the race to celebrate, dousing Thompson with water after it became evident they’d won the title. Later in the day, after an awards ceremony at nearby Hudson’s Bay High School – in a gym named the Eagles’ Nest, just like OC’s – team members took turns holding and posing with the national championship trophy.
Rain that had fallen all week in Vancouver stopped overnight and temperatures were in the low 40s at race time. The Eagles responded to the favorable conditions with arguably their strongest performance of the season.
Kisorio, who won the individual NAIA title as a sophomore in 2009, ran second on Saturday. Njonjo finished 11th in 24:21, and in what he called “the best race of my life, by far,” McWilliams was a hard-charging 19th with a time of 24:37.
Brayden Barrientez (34th), Nathan Mesta (56th), Roberto Diaz (64th) and Austin Simkins (95th) rounded out OC’s entrants in the 312-man field.
Kisorio earned cross country All-America honors for the fourth straight year and now has 19 All-America honors in both cross country and track. Njonjo now is a two-time All-American while McWilliams received the honor for the first time.
View more stories from the Spring 2012 issue of Vision magazine.