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OCXC looks to make an impression at Heartland Conference Championship

Timothy Zuercher, one of four returning runners who ran for OC last year at the NCCAA Championship, will be in the lineup Saturday when OC runs in the Heartland Conference Championship.
Timothy Zuercher, one of four returning runners who ran for OC last year at the NCCAA Championship, will be in the lineup Saturday when OC runs in the Heartland Conference Championship.

MANSFIELD, Texas (Oct. 25, 2013) – Oklahoma Christian won’t be allowed to win when it competes Saturday in the Heartland Conference Championship, but the way coach Wade Miller figures it, the Eagles still have plenty to compete for.

If nothing else, the Eagles can use the race at 9:15 a.m. at the Mansfield Sports Complex to gear up for the biggest meet of their season – the National Christian Christian College Association Championship in three weeks in Cedarville, Ohio, in which they’ll seek to defend their national title.

"I think we have been able to get in some good training over the last few weeks,” Miller said. “I'm looking forward to seeing the team step it up a level from the races we have had thus far. Our goal is to run well and build some momentum for nationals in a few weeks."

OC is in its second year in the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference. League officials chose not to allow the league’s provisional members to compete in the event last year, one in which the Eagles, had they been eligible for national rankings, probably would have been in the top 20 nationally.

But this year, the league has four provisional members – a full one-third of its membership – and the conference reversed course, albeit with some caveats.

Runners from provisional schools (OC, McMurry, Rogers State and Lubbock Christian) will be allowed to compete for all-conference honors against runners from other conference schools, but not for individual honors (such as runner of the year) or team titles.

On paper, OC has posted the best results of any team that will compete in the meet and the Eagles almost certainly have the conference’s best runner in junior Roberto Diaz, a four-time winner of the conference runner-of-the-week award this fall.

Joining Diaz in the OC lineup will be three other runners who ran in last year’s NCCAA meet – sophomores Bryant Keirns and Timothy Zuercher and junior Brennym Kaelin. Senior Nick Stoots, sophomore Trent Stephens and freshmen Evan Durrill and Nathan Giles also will run for the Eagles.

Miller is curious to see how his team runs in a conference-championship setting. Last year’s conference co-champs, Dallas Baptist (Texas) and Newman (Kan.), figure to be the top teams among those eligible for the league title.

“They both have good teams,” Miller said. “We will have to be at the top of our game.”