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Azusa Pacific, Wayland Baptist Crowned NAIA Track Champs by Narrow Margins

March 08, 2008
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March 8, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (complete meet results) - In the closest combined meets in association history, Azusa Pacific University (Calif.) and Wayland Baptist University (Texas) won their respective NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championship Meets during the final day of competition in the Minidome on the campus of East Tennessee State University.

 

Azusa Pacific captured the men's crown, beating Oklahoma Baptist University, 64.75 to 64, for the narrowest margin of victory in the 43-year history of the NAIA men's championship meet.  Wayland Baptist rallied in the final event, the 4x400-meter relay, to edge the Azusa Pacific women, 71-70, and claim the Pioneers' fourth women's indoor championship in program history, the first since 1994.

 

Junior Aron Rono led Azusa Pacific to championship, their sixth in the past 13 years, by winning a pair of events Saturday, the men's mile (4:09.46), for the second straight year, and the 3,000 meters (8:17.87).  He then anchored the Cougars to victory in the distance medley relay (10:04.37), rallying the quartet from fifth place when he took the baton to what proved to be the national-championship clinching victory. 

 

In the subsequent and final event of the meet, the 4x400-meter relay, Oklahoma Baptist had to finish at least in second place to overcome Azusa Pacific in team title race, but the Bison finished third (3:13.51), missing second-place and the national championship by just .46 of a second.

 

"As stressful as it is, that's just the best way to win a national championship," said Azusa Pacific coach Kevin Reid, who was named the NAIA Men's Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year.  "It tests you and it tests the kids when it comes down to matching performance-for-performance in every event with another quality team like OBU."

 

Dickinson State University (N.D.) finished third with 55 points, and Doane College (Neb.), on the strength of Paulvince Obuon's victory in the 60 meters (6.78) and Lance Foster's win in the 600 meters (1:19.14), was fourth with 42 points.

 

Wayland Baptist, on the other hand, capped an all-day see-saw battle with Azusa Pacific in the women's title chase by getting the necessary second-place finish (3:48.95) and the eight team points that come with it in the 4x400, edging third-place Cedarville University (Ohio) by .80 of a second.  Had the Pioneers finished third, they would have fallen a points short, and at one point in the relay they were in third place, but Aletha Hubbard came back to put WBU back in second place, and freshman anchor Kimberly Smith, who earlier in the day won the 60 meters (7.40), held the position to secure the Pioneers' place as national champion.

 

"I'm really happy for our girls," said Wayland Baptist's Brian Whitlock, the 2008 NAIA Women's Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year.  "They've really worked hard and finally got it done. My palms were a little sweaty on that 4x4 but I knew we had a very good anchor leg in Kimberly."

 

Simon Fraser University (B.C.) finished third with 59 points, while Oklahoma Baptist came in fourth with 47 points.


Rono was named the Male Outstanding Performer of the Meet.  Senior Ruky Abdulai of Simon Fraser was selected as Female Outstanding Performer, winning the long jump (21' 1¼") and high jump (5' 8¾") while finishing second in the 60 meters (7.46).  She also anchored SFU to a fourth-place finish in the 4x400 relay (3:51.15).