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Eagles run against inexperience

Friday, September 14, 2007  
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By Stefanie Trent

With no seniors on the men’s side, and two seniors on the women’s side, there appeared to be some question marks for the Oklahoma Christian University cross country teams this season.

After one week, those questions were answered positively as the Eagles placed first at their opening meet and the Lady Eagles placed third. The coaches and runners still know that with such a young team, they must continue to improve as the season continues if they are to reach their goals.

“We just want to see everyone get better,” Assistant Coach Mark Thompson said. “We have a fresh clean slate with the kids. Neither of us has coached them before. When we go to nationals, we want to be the best we can be. Since we have a young team, we are trying to establish ourselves.”

Oklahoma Christian has a long tradition of excellence in cross country. With their youth this season, the Eagles and Lady Eagles will try to avoid a down year.

“My main goal for this year is to not let anyone say that this year is a rebuilding year,” Junior Lewis Baumgardner said. “All that means is you didn’t stand up to the name that you have made for yourself.”

With this mindset come new expectations from coaches. Everyone seems to have a positive outlook while striving for the best for both teams.

“I expect for both teams to improve each week and each race,” Head Coach Wayne Strohman said. “The way we are training is so that we are running our best races at the end of the season, each race getting better.”

The coaches have high expectation for their young runners. On the men’s side, there are eight freshmen along with four returning juniors. The women have seven freshmen, four sophomores and two seniors.

“Rachel Snider will hopefully step in and fill some shoes,” Thompson said. “Kate Hudgens, a top runner from last year, is coming back from knee surgery. We definitely need a girl to step into a leadership role.

“Jordan Powell set a school record in the mile last year. With no senior leadership, we expect Jordan, while having success, to step up and become a leader.”

Snider, a sophomore, transferred to Oklahoma Christian this year from Lipscomb University.

“I know it is hard to lead new things especially from transferring,” Snider said. “I want to help the team as a whole to figure out what it means to be a college cross country runner.”

The Eagles and Lady Eagles run in their second meet of the season Saturday in the Missouri Southern Stampede at Missouri Southern State University. Thompson said he expects some of the men to be successful at the meet, even with NCAA Division I schools competing.

“Some of our guys are ready for this,” Thompson said. “Jordan really needs to be pushed, and this will do that for him.”

The running won’t get any easier for Oklahoma Christian in the Sooner Athletic Conference. Oklahoma Baptist University has been stiff competition for many years.

“OBU has set the standard for the last seven or 10 years, not only for our conference, but at nationals as well,” Strohman said. “We are going to try to knock them off, and if we cannot do it this year we will try again next year.”

The coaches want to see improvement in each runner. Jordan Powell and Rachel Snider stand out in the coaches’ mind.

“We want Powell to continue his improvement. The next step for him is to become an All-American in November,” Strohman said. “Rachel Snider should qualify for nationals individually.”

Even with their young talent, it appears Oklahoma Christian plans to continue their tradition of success in cross country.

After their victory in the University of Central Oklahoma Land Run, the Eagles are ranked No. 2 in the NAIA Region VI poll released on Monday. They are preceded by Oklahoma Baptist University. Nationally, the Bison are ranked No. 8.

The Lady Eagles are ranked No. 3 in Region VI behind Wayland Baptist University and Northwood University (Texas) after their third place finish in the Central Oklahoma Land Run.

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