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Chirchir, Powell earn All-American honors

Friday, November 30, 2007  
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By Stefanie Trent

Three Oklahoma Christian University’s runners placed in the top half of their respective races in this year’s NAIA National Cross Country Championships with two runners earning All-American honors.

Sylvia Chirchir earned All-American status with a 10th place finish and Nicole Lair placed 128th out of 268 in the women’s race. Jordan Powell placed 10th on the men’s side, earning him the distinction of All-American.

“It was very rewarding to see those guys and girls do so well,” head coach Wayne Strohman said.

The three runners from Oklahoma Christian have very interesting and different stories that go along with their respective seasons. Chirchir came to the United States at the beginning of the school year. She arrived on the first Wednesday of school.

“She definitely went through culture shock,” Strohman said. “Not just time zone but different culture. English is her second language on top of being a freshman.”

Chirchir overcame all the obstacles presented to her as being a new student in a new country to achieve success at Nationals. This all took a little bit of time but paid off in the end.

“The first four weeks were tough for her getting used to classes and the language,” Strohman said. “Once she got everything adjusted, then she was really able to excel in her class work and on the field.”

The other representative on the women’s side was Nicole Lair. This season was the sophomore’s first year on the team. While she ran track in high school, this was her first experience in competitive cross country.

“For the last two years, she liked to run and would enter local 5K races,” Strohman said. “She had never trained for cross country.”

This summer, she was recruited and started training with the team. All of her hard work paid off, and she placed in the national meet.

“She kept improving even shaving seven seconds off her personal record at Nationals,” Strohman said.

For Jordan Powell, the 10th place finish was the completion of a great deal of hard work. The junior has been training since his freshman year to get to this point.

“I knew people had expectations for me to run well, and I had expectations for myself,” Powell said. “I was extremely nervous before the race, as always.”

Powell is the 10th member in Oklahoma Christian history to earn All-American honors. He joins Michael Herndon and Steve Guymon as top ten finishers at Nationals. 

“The plan was to go out not too hard the first mile and then start moving through people in miles 2-5,” Strohman said. “After the first mile he was in the 45th-to-50th place range, and then, he passed people the rest of the race.”

Powell’s achievement was not only a great accomplishment for him but for his coaches as well. This fall marked the first year of coaching for Strohman and assistant coach Mark Thompson and they were able to see the runners respond to their instruction.

“We watched them do what we asked without ever questioning our new methods,” Strohman said. “To see that come to fruition at nationals was rewarding as a coach.”

The national meet marked the end of cross country season, but the runners hope they can build on this year’s success and continue to perform at peak condition.

“I plan to train harder during track and over the summer and hopefully, be in good shape at the start of the season next year,” Powell said. “I know that the team will follow along and do the same thing.”


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