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Eagles take 4th at NCCAA meet; Barrientez a 4-time All-American

Brayden Barrientez earned All-America honors in four events at the NCCAA Indoor Championships.
Brayden Barrientez earned All-America honors in four events at the NCCAA Indoor Championships.

MARION, Ind. (Feb. 26, 2013) – Brayden Barrientez capped a stellar indoor track career by earning All-America honors four times, leading Oklahoma Christian to a fourth-place team finish in the National Christian College Athletic Association Indoor Championships, which ended Saturday.

Barrientez anchored OC’s 4x800-meter relay team that finished second, then took third in both the mile and 800 meters, one day after helping OC’s distance medley relay team win the title in that event. In his track and cross country career, he has earned NAIA or NCCAA All-America honors 10 times – eight of those in indoor events.

In the team race, OC scored 79 points, behind a who’s who of small-college track. Azusa Pacific (Calif.), which won seven of the last 11 NAIA men’s indoor titles, won this year’s NCCAA crown with 110.5 points, followed by McMurry  (Texas), which won the 2012 NCAA Division III outdoor title, with 95 points.

Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) was third with 94 points, followed by OC and Cedarville (Ohio) with 56 points. OC posted its fifth top-four finish at a national indoor meet, having finished fourth in 1972, second in 1977, third in 1986 and fourth in 2011, all in the NAIA.

“It was a really good meet,” OC coach Randy Heath said. “There was lots of excitement and a lot of great performances. Our team did a very good job. You’re always going to have some disappointments, but still we felt like we had a really good meet, especially given the teams that beat us who are very strong and well-recognized. I thought everything went good for us.”

Barrientez was far from the only standout on Saturday at Troyer Fieldhouse. Freshman Austin Wallace tied for second in the pentathlon with a career-best 4,736 points. Sophomore Roberto Diaz was second in the 3,000 meters, and teammates David McWilliams and Geoffrey Njonjo finished third and sixth, respectively.

Right behind Barrientez in the 800 meters was freshman Ryan Lutterloh, who took fourth. Senior Tracy Marshall overcame a painful back to finish eighth in the triple jump.

All told, eight OC competitors earned at least one NCCAA All-America honor by finishing in the top three of an event – Barrientez, Diaz (three) and Nick Stoots (two), along with Lutterloh, Njonjo, McWilliams, David Koistinen and Wallace (one each).

“All those guys really pitched in and got us up there in the team standings,” Heath said. “It took a lot of different events to do that.”

Barrientez wanted to run four events at the meet, knowing three of them would be on Saturday. The first of the Saturday races, the 4x800 relay, took a lot out of him physically.

Stoots ran the lead leg of the race for OC and was in fifth when he handed off to Diaz, who moved up to second on his leg. Koistinen ran with the leader for much of the third leg, but OC trailed by 35 meters when he handed off to Barrientez. Barrientez ran a 1:55 leg and closed to within a step at the finish line, but OC’s time of 7:30.66 was just .13 of a second behind Azusa Pacific.

Barrientez ran in the mile next, a little more than an hour later. He came in with the NCCAA’s leading time in the event, but the race went out slow. That proved costly at the end, as Carolos Perez of Shorter (Ga.) and Andy Reidsma of Trinity Christian (Ill.) were able to pass Barrientez on the final turn. Perez won in 4:21.73, followed by Reidsma in 4:21.84 and Barrientez in 4:22.15.

Barrientez’s last event was the 800. He finished third in 1:57.11, just ahead of Lutterloh, who had a time of 1:57.45. A third OC runner, Stoots, was 13th in the 24-man field in 2:01.80. Grayson Haws of Southern Nazarene won in 1:55.54.

“The 4x8 took a little more out of him, because he chased it down a bit,” Heath said of Barrientez. “There was probably not enough recovery time for the mile. He led that up until the last 150 meters and people started moving. It was a sprint to the end and he came up a little short but he still did well.”

Diaz, who also ran a tough 4x800 leg, and Nathan Martin of Spring Arbor (Mich.) ran away from the field in the 3,000. Martin pulled away to win in 8:17.16, with Diaz finishing in 8:20.59. McWilliams was third in 8:39.69 and Njonjo also earned team points for OC, taking sixth in 8:44.28.

Two other OC runners were in the 21-man field – Bryant Keirns, who was 13th in 9:05.76, and Brennym Kaelin, who was 16th in 9:21.03.

Marshall, who finished sixth in the long jump on Friday, overcame back and hip issues on Saturday to uncork a mark of 13.42 meters, good for eighth and a team point for the Eagles.

Wallace passed Tomek Czerwinski of Azusa Pacific in the final meters of the final event of the heptathlon, the 1,000 meters, and finished fourth, one spot and seven points ahead of Czerwinski. That allowed Wallace to forge the second-place tie with Czerwinski behind James Blackwell of Cedarville, who scored 5,038 points.

Another OC freshman, Adam Zolman, finished 11th out of 23 competitors in the pole vault, posting a mark of 4.13 meters.

OC’s 4x400-meter relay team of Trent Parker, Lutterloh, Winston Ogletree and Wallace took 13th of 16 teams with a time of 3:35.24. In the 200 meters, Ogletree was 19th among 38 runners in 23.63 seconds, while Jamal George was 35th in 24.30 seconds.