Wayland women’s track team takes NAIA Indoor Championships

For the second straight year, the NAIA Women's Indoor Track and Field Championship came down to the wire. Unlike a year ago, however, it was the Pioneer women that came out on top winning the national title by just one point over Azusa Pacific University.

Down 70-63 with only the 4x400-meter relay remaining, the Pioneer team of Keliesha Ross, Caroline Oladipo, Demetrice Gilliam and Kimberly Smith ran a 3:48.95 to finish .80 of a second ahead of third place Cedarville University and register the needed eight points for the championship banner. The Pioneers were actually running third in the race until Gilliam, running the third leg, put her team back in second, and Smith held the position. It is the fourth team indoor championship for the WBU women’s program and the first since 1994.

Simon Fraser University (B.C.) finished third in the women’s team competition with 59 points, while Oklahoma Baptist came in fourth with 47 points.

“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.”

Smith also won two individual national championships in the 60-meters (7.40) and the 200-meters (24.44). In Friday’s semi-final round of the 60, the freshman from Jamaica set a new NAIA record in the 60-meter semifinals with a 7.32 to break the former meet record of 7.41.

The points began piling up for the Pioneer women on Thursday when freshman Latanya Nation set a school record with 3,409 points to win runner-up honors in the pentathlon. Nation had third place finishes in the 60-meter hurdles (9.08), the shot put (36-02), and the long jump (18-00.25), finished sixth in the 800-meters (2:32.01) and 14th in the high jump (4-08.75) to break Priscilla Edwards’ previous mark of 3,389 set at the 2003 NAIA Championships.

On Friday, the WBU 4x800-meter relay team ended the day with a gold medal finish. Junior Erin Britton’s second-leg effort gave the Pioneers the lead for good and anchor Purity Biwott broke away from the field to give WBU a winning time of 9:15.53, beating Azusa Pacific, which was second with a 9:18.79, for what proved to be an important four-point swing in the team title race. Elva Pedroza and Kydia Echols are the other members of the winning relay team.

“We had a roller-coaster day for us”, said Whitlock, after Friday’s competition, “but that was a great finish that will hopefully excite our girls. We have a good opportunity (to win) tomorrow.”

Three Pioneers had individual runner-up finishes during the final day on Saturday beginning with Oladipo’s record-breaking triple jump. The senior from Waco added three inches to her previous school record with a jump of 40-08.75.

Also bringing home silver medals were Biwott in the 800m (2:13.72) and Britton in the 1000m (2:56.84).

Ross earned All-American honors with a sixth place finish in the 200m (24.86).

Caroline Karunde, who fell ill and spent several hours in the emergency room after qualifying for the finals in both the Mile and the 3,000 on Friday, competed in Saturday’s Mile Run finishing in 8th place.

The Pioneer men captured eight points with two fourth place finishes. Caleb McLean ran a 49.27 in the 400m and Kirby Dunn completed the 1,000m in a time of 2:30.47.

The men’s 4x800 relay team of Victor Lemay, Mario Scott, Andrew Lancaster and Dunn finished just missed earning points with a seventh place finish (7:54.15).