By Rudy Roediger, Media Coordinator
GENEVA, Ohio - (Day 1 results) Azusa Pacific's (Calif.) Breanna Leslie secured her first women's pentathlon championship taking over the reign of Biola's Natasha Miller, who graduated with three-straight championships, at the NAIA Men's & Women's Indoor Track & Field National Championships at the Spire Institute on Thursday.
Leslie, a junior from Mesa, Ariz., battled the field of nine finalists holding onto a 72-point (3861-to-3789) advantage over Dordt's (Iowa) Briana Vander Woude, and 210 points over fellow Azusa Pacific teammate Megan VanWinkle. Leslie used wins in the 60-meter hurdles and shot put, along with second-place finishes in the high jump and 800-meter run to offset her third-place finish in the long jump. The 5-foot-8 multi event competitor won the 60 hurdles with a time of 8.56 and made a 10.97 meter throw in the shot put.
"The biggest thing she (Breanna Leslie) has done this year is she has become very steady at her personal best on a week to week basis," said Azusa Pacific women's head coach Mike Barnett. "She missed a personal best by four points but produced a very solid effort all the way across."
The performance of Leslie and VanWinkle, along with fellow Cougar Emily Nash, who finished fourth, gave the two-time indoor national champions an early 13-point lead over Dordt (21-to-8).
Despite being without his three-time pentathlon champion, Biola (Calif.) head coach Jonathan Zimmerman had reason to be excited after the first day of competition. His ladies earned the top preliminary time (9:09.41) in the 4x800-meter relay and their 12:19.04 in the distance medley qualified them for the final with the seventh best time.
Brooke Forsi, Nychele Fischetti, Jane Kerner, and Alexandra Sciarra ran the back-to-back distance relays.
Fischetti, a senior from Eagle River, Alaska, anchored the DMR after running the third leg of the 4x800. She concluded the evening running 2400-meters in less than three hours.
"I felt so encouraged by my teammates to be able to do it today," Fischetti said. "That's how I made it through."
"I chose the NAIA and Biola specifically because I like the coaches' atmosphere and the encouragement," Kerner said. "It's a family, no matter if you are the biggest rivals or teammates, everyone is encouraging."
Not to be outdone, back-to-back women's team champions Oklahoma Baptist had a solid showing in the first day as their 4x800 finished just under two seconds behind Biola in the preliminaries, while finishing one better in sixth of the DMR. The 2011 Most Valuable Performer, Verone Chambers anchored OBU's 4x400-meter relay as the Bison qualified for Saturday's final behind Indiana Tech and Shorter (Ga.).
"It's a three-day meet," said Oklahoma Baptist head coach Ford Mastin. "I hope that they enjoy what is in their life and what they are becoming and make a good memory."
Mastin, the 2010 and 2011 Coach of the Year, saw his squad of just 17 athletes rise to the occasion last year in Geneva scoring 44 points in the final day to secure their second-straight team championship.
In the men's heptathlon, Eastern Oregon's Robbie Haynie paced a tight race of six athletes within 103 points. The top three of Haynie (2,169), Caleb Neal of Oklahoma Baptist (2,147), and Matt Waters of Concordia (Ore.) (2,135) ended day one of competition within 34 points of one another.
Last year's champion, Haynie used a consistent performance through the first three events to hold the lead in the field of 16 finalists.
In the women's 5000-meter preliminary run, Azusa Pacific's Lauren Jimison led all qualifiers with her time of 17:22.55, while Embry-Riddle's (Fla.) Evans Kirwa led the men's qualifiers in a time of 14:47.89.
The men's relay events were led by three Wayland Baptist (Texas) qualifiers. The Pioneers earned the top spot in the 4x400 with a time of 3:16.22, finished in second in qualifying for the distance medley behind Oklahoma Baptist's 9:56.52, and sixth in the 4x800 with Morningside (Iowa) recording the top time of 7:38.75.
OBU's preliminary time in the distance medley beat last year's mark of 9:58.15 by Shorter's (Ga.) championship time.
The second day of the three-day NAIA Indoor National Championships continue Friday with the finale of the men's heptathlon and four more track finals - the men's and women's 3200-meter relays and the men's and women's 3000-meter walks. The field events kick into gear for the first time Friday with the finals set for the men's and women's weight throw, women's pole vault, men's and women's long jump, and men's high jump.
2012 Indoor Championships - Day 1 Recap
Leslie of Azusa Pacific and Haynie of Eastern Oregon shine to open up action
By Rudy Roediger, Media Coordinator