MARION, Ind. (May 23, 2012) - What Oklahoma Christian's men's track and field squad for the NAIA Outdoor Championships lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality.
OC has sent nine competitors to the meet, which will start Thursday. Among them are five runners who have scored points at previous national meets and a field competitor who earned NAIA field athlete of the week honors earlier this season.
Of course, the OC squad will be anchored by senior Silas Kisorio, a 10-time NAIA champion. A high team finish in the meet isn't out of the question, although OC head coach Randy Heath said the Eagles probably won't contend for the national title, given the relatively small size of the OC contingent.
"We do have some quality performers, but not enough quality performers to challenge for the men's team title," Heath said. "We would need other athletes to place high in their respective events along with Kisorio to finish in the top four. Our goal more realistically is to place in the top 10."
Kisorio is among the most decorated runners in NAIA history. He will be seeking a fourth straight outdoor 800-meter NAIA title and a third straight 1,500-meter crown in finals scheduled to be run 90 minutes apart on Saturday afternoon. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Kisorio will end his career having earned All-America honors an astounding 21 times in track and cross country.
The 1,500 has the potential to be an extremely productive race for the Eagles, with three entrants all ranked in the top seven in the NAIA. OC senior Nathan Mesta finished second to Kisorio in last year's race while running for Kansas Wesleyan and junior Brayden Barrientez will enter the meet with the fourth-fastest time nationally in the event.
"Brayden and Nathan both are capable of placing high in the 1,500," Heath said.
Barrientez, the NAIA 1,000-meter indoor runner-up in March, will join Kisorio in doubling at outdoor nationals in the 1,500 and the 800.
Junior Geoffrey Njonjo earned All-America status in both the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters outdoors last year. He will only run in the 10K this year, having posted a qualifying time that ranks him fifth in the NAIA.
Njonjo will be joined in the 10,000 by junior David McWilliams, who earned All-America status in the 5,000 at the NAIA Indoor Championships. The 10,000 will be the first track event final contested, on Thursday night.
McWilliams also plans to run the marathon on Saturday morning and could contend, judging from his qualifying time - the fourth-best of the 54 entrants. Senior Joseph Zarazua will join McWilliams in representing OC in the marathon. His qualifying time ranked 21st overall.
OC also could pick up team points from senior Renaldo Garrett in the 110-meter hurdles, who Heath thinks has a good chance of reaching the Friday afternoon final in that event. Garrett enters the meet ranked 13th of 31 competitors.
Two OC field event specialists also qualified for nationals, including senior triple jumper Brandon Jackson, who was named the NAIA field athlete of the week in March and ranks 13th of 28 competitors entering the Saturday event. OC's other qualifier is junior Tracy Marshall in the long jump, which will be contested on Friday.