From Shorter University Athletics:
For the third and final time, Shorter University will serve as host when the 2016 National Christian College Athletic Association National Track and Field Championships takes place Friday and Saturday at Barron Stadium and at the Riverside Throws Center.
What is yet to be determined, however, is whether the Hawks and Lady Hawks can make their last appearance in the national event a three-peat.
While Shorter has the opportunity to sweep the NCCAA’s men’s and women’s national championships for the third straight year, the team is focusing more on using the meet as its final tune-up for an even bigger prize – the NCAA Division II Championships that starts on May 26.
“We’ve been really blessed to be able to host the NCCAA championships for the last three years,” Shorter Director of Track Scott Byrd said as more than 550 athletes representing 29 teams from around the country gather in Rome for the last time. “Both the NCCAA and Shorter share the same mission – to help athletes and coaches make a positive impact for Christ in a true spirit of competition.
“Of course, we would love to defend our championships for the third straight year,” the coach said, “and there are some great teams who will be here looking to stop us. But we want to make sure we keep what is ahead of us – the NCAA championships – as our main focus.”
Unlike the past two championship meets, Shorter will enter this year’s event with a noticeably smaller list of 29 athletes – 15 Hawks and 14 Lady Hawks – who will compete, most of them either having earned automatic qualifying spots or are provisional qualifiers for the NCAA meet.
Five Lady Hawks have already punched their ticket to the Division II championships that will be held in Bradenton, Fla., as senior All-American Ayana Walker has the third fastest time in the nation in the 400 meters (52.88 seconds) and although she will not run in the event this weekend – she will compete in the 200 boasting the fastest time (24.05) in the field – Walker will join teammates Promise Clark, Amber Littlejohn and Jasmine Crump for the 4×400 relay having posted an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 3:39.33, also the third best in Division II.
Emily Buwalda will be looking to improve on her provisional qualifying time of 2:09.64 in the 800 (ranked 9th in the NCAA), while Crump is ranked 29th in Division II in the 400 with a 55.52 and will be trying to improve both her time and ranking this weekend.
Three more Lady Hawks will also be out to better their national NCAA status over the next two days. Anelise Aldana is currently ranked No. 8 in the triple jump (40 feet, 5 inches) and is 21st in the long jump (19-4); Yamara Robinson is 13thin the triple jump (19-4); and freshman Ansley Long boasts the 13th best effort of 19-8.75 in the long jump.
All-American Alfred Chelanga heads up what is a potent group of Hawks, having already become an automatic qualifier in the 5,000 thanks to a 13:55.45 he ran last week at the Payton Jordan Invitational two weeks ago at Stanford University. This weekend, however, the 2015 Division II national cross country champion will only run the 10,000, hoping to shave off a few seconds of his best time this year (32:08.10) to earn a spot in the event at the nationals.
Teammate Gregory Roachford, Jr., and Supan Randeniya are respective favorites in the 400 and 110 hurdles, but both know even better times will keep them in the hunt to wrap up a national meet berth as Roachford is currently ranked 16th (47.17) in the 400 and Randeniya is 11th (14.16) in the hurdles.
Wake Roberds is also out to improve his 22nd ranking (52.82) in the 400 hurdles to notch a national spot, as is Albert Chelimo in the 3,000 steeplechase (24th, 9:10.65) and sprinter Lester Miller (31st, 10.54) in the 100.
The Hawks and Lady Hawks 4×100 relay foursomes are included in the list of Shorter athletes who must improve their times to have a shot at running at the NCAA meet, as will the men’s 4×400 team that is on the proverbial qualifying bubble with a time of 3:12.15 that is ranked No. 22 in Division II.
Last year, Shorter put together a classic come-from-behind charge thanks to a motherlode of spectacular are record-setting effort as the Hawks rolled up nearly 89 points to win their NCCAA crown with 98 points and the Lady Hawks amassed 108.5 points – 100 of those on Saturday to ensure Shorter back-to-back championships.
Bethel’s men settled for second place behind the Hawks for second place with 87 points and Indiana Wesleyan was third (80), and trailing the Lady Hawks in the next two spots in the final standings was Indiana Wesleyan (85) and McMurry (67.5.)
Tickets for thus year’s NCCAA championships are $5 per person each day.