JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Perhaps it didn’t go as well as planned, but there is no need for Azusa Pacific track & field to be disappointed. The Cougar men and women, who were both the reigning national champions, came up short in their bid for a third straight title sweep, but both squads had top 5 showings, finishing fourth at the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships held on the campus of East Tennessee State University this weekend.
The Cougar men, who were gunning for their fourth straight indoor national champion, instead finished fourth with 41 points. Lindenwood (Mo.) dethroned the Cougars with a whopping 100.25 points.
“Even if we had a perfect meet, we would not have caught Lindenwood,” said Azusa Pacific men’s coach Kevin Reid. “They had an outstanding meet where everything fell into place. We had some bumps along way, and that was kind of unusual for us at a national championship meet, but it’s bound to happen if you’re in track & field long enough.”
With 55 points and a fourth-place finish, the Cougar women had their sting of 4 straight NAIA titles (2 indoor and 2 outdoor) snapped by Oklahoma Baptist, which won its first-ever NAIA track & field championship.
Victories by Vivan Chukwuemeka in the shot put (58’ 2½”) and weight throw (61’ 8¼”) and by Briana Carstensen in the 3000 meters (9:55.95) accounted for 30 of the Cougars’ 55 points. The 2 seniors have combined for 19 NAIA individual titles in their careers. Chukwuemeka, who broke her own record in the weight throw, becomes the first athlete ever to sweep the shot and the weight 4 straight years.
The Cougars got All-American efforts from Niema Golphin in the 200 (24.85) and 400 meters (56.14), Barber Sugar in the weight throw (51’ 9¼”), Morgan Altizer (3,408) and Ryann Hansen (3,182) in the pentathlon and then finished second in the 4x800 (9:10.76) and fourth in the distance medley relay (11:57.55)
On the men’s side, Brian Bernard won the pentathlon (3,731) on Thursday. Sophomore Matt Sparks led a contingent of Cougars with All-American performances by finishing fourth in the 55-meter hurdles (7.74). Kevin Lindsey, who was third in the 1000 (2:28.69), Danny Reid who was fifth in the 800 (1:55.16), freshman Caleb Lynch, who was second in the 600 (1:19.92), and Tony Ramirez, who was fifth in the 400 (48.16), all picked up individual All-American awards. The Cougars then finished second in the 4x800 (7:39.35) and sixth in the 4x400 (3:16.47).