2014 NCCAA Outdoor Track & Field National Championship:
ROME, Ga. -- A string of early victories kept Azusa Pacific in the chase for the women’s title at the 2014 National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships, but championship host Shorter University rallied on the final day as the Cougars posted second-place women’s and third-place men’s finishes. Shorter swept the outdoor championships after posting an indoor title sweep earlier this year.
Sophomore Reika Kijima claimed two individual titles, winning the 1500 with a time of 4:40.28 while senior teammate Diandra Carstensen also earned NCCAA All-American honors with a third-place finishing time of 4:41.91 in the same event. Senior Jordan Chesley made it back-to-back Cougar victories on the track by winning the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.33.
Kijima posted another victory in the 800, clocking 2:15.52, and Azusa Pacific got an extra point from an eighth-place finish from freshman Jocelyn Orozco (2:20.70). Chesley collected sixth place in the 400 hurdles, giving the Cougars a 13.5-point lead over Shorter heading into the final three events of the meet.
The first of those three was the 200, and that’s where Shorter made its move, sweeping the top four spots while freshman Kanoe Yadao placed seventh (26.08) for a 27-point turnaround that dimmed the Cougars’ hopes for a national title. Although Azusa Pacific had three entries in the 5,000 meters, only one of them entered the event with a top-12 qualifying time, and the Cougars were unable to generate any points in the event.
That clinched the national title for Shorter, which took a 13.5-point lead into the 4x400 meter relay to close out the meet. The Hawks won the final relay with Azusa Pacific third, giving Shorter 141 points to the Cougars’ 123.5-point tally. Indiana Wesleyan (108.5), Bethel (75.5), and Point Loma (62.5) rounded out the top-five of the women’s championship standings.
Shorter also claimed the men’s title with 141 points, and Azusa Pacific was just a half-point behind runner-up Bethel (Ind.), which scored 86.5 points. The Cougars finished with 86 points on a day which featured an individual national title for junior hurdler Tanner Henry, along with three other NCCAA All-American (top-three finish) performances.
“It was a great three days for our men’s and women’s programs,” Azusa Pacific director of track and field Mike Barnett said. “We are so proud of the way both teams competed this weekend. We came in ready to compete and finish the season off in a successful way, and that’s exactly what we did. On the women's side, we had several standouts, and they had an impressive meet. Some of the leadership on the men’s team is going to be really tough to replace with the graduation of Riley, Sameer, and David. The coaching staff is proud of this group, because we did just about all we could do in this meet.”
Henry won the 400 hurdles in a time of 53.52, chasing down the early race leaders over the final turn and straightway to win going away, and senior Sameer Sedam added an eighth-place finish (56.45) to go with Henry’s win. Jake Hare finished second (14.57) and freshman Matt Kenney placed sixth (15.72) in the 110-meter hurdles, while senior Riley McKee posted third place in the 800 (1:57.06) to go with junior Peter Buscheck’s third-place performance in the steeplechase (9:16.12).
The Cougars were fourth in the 4x100 meter relay, clocking a time of 42.21 seconds, and they took second in the 4x400 relay (3:20.69) to close out the meet on a strong note. Senior David Schulte and sophomore Ronald Douglas each added top-five efforts, with Schulte taking fifth in the 400 (48.57) and Douglas earning fifth in the 200 (21.54).
Following the top-three men’s teams were fourth-place Greenville (73 points) and fifth-place Southern Nazarene (69.5).