With a successful cross country season behind them, OBU turns its attention to track.
The indoor season begins Dec. 10-11 at the Kansas State All-Comers meet in Manhattan, Kan., and ends with the NAIA National Meet in Johnson City, Tenn., March 4-6. Along the way, OBU will visit Kansas State a second time, as well as the University of Kansas, the University of Arkansas and several meets hosted by Oklahoma Christian University at the University of Oklahoma's facility in Norman.
The outdoor season picks up on March 26 with OBU hosting the Bison Relays with the NAIA championships set for May 26-28 in Louisville, Ky. OBU additionally will make appearances at the Texas Relays, the Drake Relays and at several other venues.
OBU's track teams have been the most successful athletic squads in recent school history, having claimed the university's last national championship in 1990. Though the red banner is collecting dust in the Noble Complex, no grass is growing under the feet of the track program, which has had top 10 finish after top 10 finish since then.
"Last year=s close finish for third at the Indoor Championships has been a great motivation for the solid group of upperclassmen to lead a talented group of freshmen into a more demanding preparation phase this Fall," said Bison coach Ford Mastin.
The upperclassmen are led by Pat Brown, one of the greatest competitors in OBU=s history. Brown has won only one National Championship (Indoor 55 HH), but has finished as the runner-up five times in three different individual events. A great relay leg, Brown will be looking to add many National Championship honors during his senior year.
Brown will be joined by several hurdlers to make a quality hurdle squad.
"State Champion Lamar Baskin, along with Ryan Huling, and Kurt Thomas will benefit from Pat=s leadership and make competitive hurdlers," Mastin said.
Returning All-American Clint Goodson will lead a potentially strong sprint crew back to a missing part of the OBU Track tradition ¬- a dominant sprint crew that should win relays at the National Meet. Sophomores Leonarde Smith and Derek Nettles should overcome injury-plagued freshmen seasons. State Champions T.J. Lightsey and E.J. Rusher should be outstanding freshmen sprinters.
Another OBU tradition that will be reloaded this year is the 'long-sprinters.' These athletes run the 4x400 and 4x800 relays and make the 600 a specialty. OBU has had the last two national record holders in the 600 and always scores well in this event. Senior All-American Dave Sitzer is trying to overcome a back problem and will be joined by sophomore relay All-American Bryce Bell to lead freshmen Bertholomew Bailey, Chris Chandler, and Trace Heavener to fulfill this role.
Outstanding freshman Matt Blackowl, arguably the best middle distance in Oklahoma last year, along with Kurt Thomas and returning school record holders Landon Willets and Michael Elizondo will make this group a powerful force in the 600, 800, 1000, mile, 4x800, and Distance Medley.
The jumpers are led by senior All-American triple jumper Dominique Chan Low. Sophomore Kerry Duckworth recovers from surgery to continue his development. State long jump champion Mitchell Henry will also be joined by John Fullington and Josh Ihle to compete in jumps along with the other four events in the indoor pentathlon.
OBU also hopes to contend in the throwing events.
"The throws will be an especially strong area for the Bison this year," said Mastin. "Seniors Sean Carlisle and National qualifiers Michael Chavez and Junior Jeremiah Campo will lead freshmen Andy Wiemero and Bret Olsen to make this a solid group to cover the college implements: shot, 35-pound weight throw, discus, javelin, and hammer."
New assistant coach John Ridgway leads this group.
The women's team hopes to build of a successful 2003-04 campaign.
"After finishing higher than any team in OBU=s history, the women look to improve on the third place finish at last year=s Indoor Championships. Several experienced athletes lead the team in their perspective events," said Mastin.
Senior National Champion Keyonna Hornbuckle leads sophomore All-American Kyli Bean and senior National Champion Melissa Mount in the long sprinting events. Hornbuckle also shines as school record holder in the 400 low hurdles. Senior Melissa Thorman, sophomores Lavinia Thomas and Felicia Huffines, and freshman Idella Baylock will add to the sprints.
Junior national qualifier Penny Dunaway leads sophomore Jennifer Jenckes and freshman multi-State Champion Sarah Thurber in the hurdle events. Thurber was one of the best recruits in Oklahoma last year and will also be counted on in the relays.
The jumpers are led by junior school record holder Mai Fukada and have two returning sophomore All-Americans in Deena Almohandis and Michelle Carpenter. The high jump, triple jump, and long jump are in very capable hands. Freshman Megan Wakeman will handle the pole vaulting duties.
The throwers are led by SAC champion and school record holder Mandy Winkler, and include freshmen Shawnna Underwood and Brandi Storm.
The distance crew will again be led by two-time national champion Mirriam Kaumba.
All-Americans Andrea Mount, Chandra Huckabay, and national runner-up Kyta Ferrer return to maintain the excellence of the 4x800 relay and to compete for spots on the 4x400 relay. Kelsey and Katie Engstrom will join Katy Rader, Becka Brock, Sarah Hale, Kendra Ray, and Lauren Vaughan to represent OBU in the 1500, 3000, 3000 steeple, 5000, 10,000, and marathon.
Multiple All-American and school record holder Kari Hart Nunneley will help tutor the distance crew.