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How Sweep It Is

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Photo by Joe Reinsch
Azusa Pacific claimed both the men's and women's National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Outdoor Track & Field national championships.

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May 4, 2013
Joe Reinsch
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Final Meet Results - CLICK HERE

JOLIET, Ill. -- A dominant performance on the final day of the 2013 National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Outdoor Track & Field National Championships delivered men's and women's national titles to Azusa Pacific, giving the Cougars their first-ever outdoor national-championship sweep in a season.

The pair of national titles brings Azusa Pacific's national-championship total for track & field to 33, bringing the men's program championship tally to 25 while the women's program picked up its eighth national crown. It also gave the Cougars an indoor and outdoor sweep of the 2013 NCCAA men's track & field championships. Overall, Azusa Pacific's athletics program has now won 46 national championships.

“We are truly a combined program, so it’s fun when both teams are able to win at the same time and celebrate together,” said Azusa Pacific men’s track & Field head coach Kevin Reid. “There’s so much crossover in how we train together, that it really is just one team, and it’s always a little bit of a downer when one side wins and the other doesn’t.”

The Cougars entered the day with a 45-point lead in the women's team standings and a 20-point lead in men's competition. With entries in all but two of Saturday’s 28 event finals, it was easy to envision the title sweep by comfortable margins, and Azusa Pacific made it look even easier by picking up points in all 14 men’s events and 11 of the 14 women’s finals to run away with the titles. Both teams counted 12 top-three finishes among Saturday’s 14-event schedule, and they combined to gather first- or second-place standing in 16 of the day’s 22 races.

Azusa Pacific won the women's championship by a 92-point margin, scoring 192 points to second-place Shorter University's 100-point total. The Cougar men won seven of the 11 races which were contested Saturday to finish with 207 points overall and claim the championship by a 110-point margin over runner-up McMurry (Texas) University, which finished with 97 points.

Top meet honors went to Track Athlete of the Meet Breanna Leslie, and Field Athlete of the Meet was awarded to Cheri Smith. On the men's side, Remontay McClain was named the Track Athlete of the Meet after winning individual titles in both the 100 and 200 meters.

The Azusa Pacific coaching staff, led by director of track & field Mike Barnett, along with men's head coach Kevin Reid and women's head coach Preston Grey, were named the 2013 NCCAA Outdoor Track & Field Coaching Staff of the Year for both the men's and women's programs.

“Again, it was surreal for me to stand back and watch our amazing coaches do what they do best at a championship meet,” Barnett said. “Administratively, we have the best staff, and I think we’re going to continue to be as successful if not more so, because we work together. We administer all the details that it takes to win a national championship. We orchestrated this back in September when we sat down with our staff and our athletes and said we would raise the bar. We planned from the beginning what success would look like, and I think we reached just about every goal we had for ourselves this year.”

The meet produced 38 NCCAA All-Americans for Azusa Pacific, with Leslie leading the way with All-American performances in all six events she entered. Leslie, the 100-meter hurdles individual champion with a meet-record time of 13.90 seconds, accounted for 32 points towards the team standings on her own with second-place finishes in the 200 meters and high jump, and she placed third in the long jump. She also anchored both of Saturday’s relay finals, the 4x400 and 4x100, which netted second and third place, respectively, for another 14 points towards the team total.

Smith, who claimed the women’s hammer individual championship Friday, made it into the finals of both throwing events Saturday. In the discus, Smith made it into the finals in eighth place through prelims, but she unleashed a huge PR in the finals round with a throw of 139-feet, 1-inch, to take second place in the competition. She bettered her previous career-best by over nine feet, and she also made it into the finals of the shot put with her best throw of outdoor season (39-feet, 5.75-inches). Her efforts brought in 18 points.

“Our stars delivered what they were supposed to deliver,” Grey said “This is what the meet looked like on paper, but championship meets don’t always go the way they’re projected. We went out and executed very well, winning the races we should along with some we probably shouldn’t have won. We got just about every point we were supposed to get.”

With wins in the 100 and 200 meters at Azusa Pacific’s national outdoor championship meet for the second straight year, McClain has now won six consecutive individual sprint titles in national championship competition. Before posting his individual wins, he also brought home a national-championship performance with his anchor leg for the Cougars’ meet-record 40.82 seconds in the 4x100 meter relay. McClain clocked 10.46 seconds in the 100 meters to pick up his first individual title, and he returned to the track just over an hour later to run the 200 meters in 20.88 seconds. His 100-meter time was the second-fastest in NCCAA Championship history, and he set the 200-meter meet record in Friday’s prelims with a time of 20.54 seconds.

Azusa Pacific got its title chase underway from Saturday’s opening gun, when Sarah Higgens seized her opportunity to take the lead from race leader Kelsey Bruce with just 100 meters to go in the race. Bruce, who stumbled over the barrier on the back stretch, also struggled to get over the water barrier before Higgens caught up with her for the final home stretch.

Diandra Carstensen led wire-to-wire to win both the 800 and the 1500 meters, winning with times of 2:17.29 and 4:36.29, and she contributed the second leg of Azusa Pacific’s second-place 4x400 meter relay team that closed out the meet with a time of 3:49.86. Kristie Sikma added a second individual championship to her weekend, following yesterday’s 10,000-meter title with a 17:53.27 in the lead spot of a one-two finish with Higgens in the 5,000 meters.

The men’s day opened with a victory, as well, when the Cougars’ 4x100 meter relay consisting of McClain, Sameer Sedam, Ronald Douglas, and David Schulte sprinted to the meet-record in the event with a winning time of 40.82 seconds. After Peter Buscheck took fourth place in the men’s steeplechase and Aaron Potts was edged by less than half a second at the finish line to take second place in the 1500 meters, Azusa Pacific put the meet away by winning the next six events on the track.

Jake Hare and Slater Ezell took first and second with times of 14.67 seconds in a 110 meter hurdles photo finish, with Hare edging Ezell by less than a hundredth of a second for the win to replicate the same type of photo-finish the pair had qualified with a day earlier. Schulte followed with a winning time of 47.82 seconds in the 400 meters, and McClain claimed the first of his two individual wins in the 100 meters.

Riley McKee kept the winning streak alive in the 800, reeling in the race leader over the final 200 meters to post a winning time of 1:53.65. That set up another one-two finish for the Cougars in the 400 meter hurdles for Ezell and Tanner Henry, with Ezell registering 52.80 seconds for the victory while Henry posted a career-best time of 53.52 seconds for the runner-up finish.

McClain wrapped up the impressive streak, winning the Cougars’ sixth consecutive track event with his winning effort in the 200. Buscheck placed seventh in the 5,000 meters before the 4x400 relay wrapped up the competition with the last of 18 All-American performances for Azusa Pacific with a runner-up finish in the 4x400 meter relay.

“This team has done a pretty good job of blending together throughout the year,” Reid said. “We had some long trips with some glitches during travel that were out of our control, so we ended up with a lot of downtime at airports and on the road. That really worked as a positive to where this is now a pretty close group.”

In field events, Schulte advanced to the finals of the long jump in eighth place, and he ended up in that same spot without taking a jump in the finals as they took place during his preparation for the 4x400 meter relay. Brad Beckwith took second place in the discus with a throw of 165-feet, 4-inches in the finals, and he also picked up sixth place in the shot put with a PR of 52-feet, 0.5-inches. Talaiasi Taueli registered fourth place in the shot with a season-best of his own, a throw of 54-feet, 6-inches that left him three-quarters of an inch from finishing in the top three.

Azusa Pacific’s outdoor season is now complete, and a pair of Cougar athletes (Leslie and McClain) have registered qualifying marks for the U.S. Outdoor Championships, which are held June 19-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.