Special to The Sun
Oklahoma City University placed four runners in the top 30 in its first appearance in the NAIA Championships and claimed the program’s first NAIA cross country title Nov. 23 at Rim Rock Farm.
The Stars, ranked No. 5 in NAIA men’s cross country, completed the eight-kilometer race with 77 team points and finished 47 points ahead of top-ranked Southern Oregon and 80 points ahead of 2012 champion St. Francis (Ill.). Sophomores Arya Bahreini and Peter Koskey along with freshmen Chris Lowery and Mackenzie Wahpepah-Harris finished in the top 30 individually and earned all-American status.
“The men won in very dominating fashion I thought,” OCU coach Conor Holt said. “We had four guys finish in the top 30 and make All-American and we just had a really good performance. They really listened to the race plan and it just goes to show that everyone has really bought into what we are trying to do here.”
Koskey, of Keringet, Kenya, finished eighth overall with a time of 24 minutes and 47 seconds. The sophomore finished 45 seconds behind individual champion Eric Avila of Southern Oregon.
Bahreini, of Edmond, finished 11th overall with a time of 24:50. The sophomore finished 37th while competing as an individual at the NAIA championships a year ago.
The freshmen duo of Lowery and Wahpepah-Harris finished 22nd and 25th respectively. Lowery, of Chandler, posted a time of 25:04 while Wahpepah-Harris, of Norman, notched a time of 25:06.
Junior Kyle Wardwell, of Norman, finished 38th with a time of 25:01 to round out the Stars’ top 5 runners.
Sophomore Stephen Broadhurst, from Warrington, England, placed 88th with a time of 25:47 and fellow sophomore Reno Blum, of Tahlequah, finished 286th with a time of 28:10.
Fellow SAC member Oklahoma Baptist placed 14th overall with 334 team points. Oklahoma Baptist’s Adam Godwin out of Edmond North High School finished seventh overall and earned All-American acclaim.
Teams dealt with a sub-freezing temperature of 27 degrees and wind gusts up to 24 miles per hour during the race.
OCU made its first appearance in the NAIA Championships since the school reinstated cross country before the 2008-09 school year.
“I think we are at the point now where we can continue to recruit and really build up into a national powerhouse,” Holt said. “That’s why I came to OCU. It is really rare that you get four All-Americans.”
The 2013 NAIA men’s cross country title is Oklahoma City University’s 52nd national championship. OCU has now won an NAIA title in each of the last 19 years.