Bison Fourth, Ladies 11th at Nationals

Once again Oklahoma Baptist University's cross country team made the raters look goofy.

After dropping the Bison from seventh to 10th after OBU won the men's NAIA Region VI championship, the Oklahoma Baptist harriers finished fourth in the national meet Saturday behind new All-American Theron Stoltzfus.

"Many teams had things go wrong that kept them from having the performances they wanted," said Bison coach Ford Mastin. "We had fewer disappointments than the average team."
As a unit, the Bison squad benefited from the experience of its veterans.

"The upperclassmen had the National meet experience and knew how to pace themselves through the season to have the energy for a great last performance," said Mastin. "All of the veterans ran well. The freshmen tried to be too impressive during the many practices of the season and simply looked a little fatigued, along with not having a National Meet experience to know how to judge their effort."

Stoltzfus, who was one of six OBU runners to be named an All-America Scholar Athlete on Friday, finished 16th to lead the Bison in a time of 25:11. The top 30 runners are All-America. Stoltzfus is a senior from Meade, Kan.

"Theron Stoltzfus has come a long way," said Mastin. "His time at the 2-mile split was over 10 seconds faster than his 2-mile best on the track in high school. He has improved to be an elite runner."

His 16th place finish has been bettered by only 2 other OBU athletes.It ties with current Wayland coach, Brian Whitlock.

OBU finished with 253 points and just out of third place. The No. 20 Lady Bison finished 11th at 367, led by Kyta Willets.

Lance Goodwin, a sophomore from Harrah, was 40th in 25:54, just 22 seconds off the All-America pace. Michael Elizondo was 51st at 26:01, freshman Tyler Tyndell was 74th at 26:14 and Justin Stroup finished the scoring for OBU in 162nd at 27:14.

Also for the Bison, Jacob Wright was 166th at 27:16 and Josiah White was 214th at 27:58. White also was an All-America Scholar Athlete, as was Bison Cole Tunnell and Trace Heavener.

"Senior Jacob Wright has put in many miles in his career and made a quality contribution," said Mastin. "Junior Josiah White has come from being a non-contributor due to on-going multiple injuries, to being a reliable competitor. It has been a long 3 year process for him. Lance Goodwin and Michael Elizondo were very mature,solid, and determined. These guys just barely missed being All-Americans. They will be outstanding leaders next year."

Willets, who also earned All-America Scholar Athlete honors, finished 33rd in 18:42. An All-American a year ago, the senior from Carrollton, Texas, missed two-time status by just over two seconds.

"Kyta Willets was pretty fresh and hungry for competition from missing so many meets and practices due to her therapy and cross training for her foot ailment," said Mastin.

Region champion Lauren Watson battled to 75th place. The freshman from Skiatook finished in 19:21. Senior Kyli Bean was 118th at 19:41. Katy Rader finished 153rd in 19:57 and Becca Murdock finished off the scoring in 164th at 20:03.

"Katy Rader has stayed with the program for four years and had a quality senior season," Mastin said. "Her times would have been one of the top two girls on the team in six of the last 10 years. Her character really shined."

Also for OBU, Natalie Pedersen was 182nd at 20:12 and Jessica Herbert was 202nd in 20:26.

"It is interesting that three of our top five women didn\'t run cross country in high school,"
Mastin noted. "Kyli Bean was a sprinter, Becca Murdoch did not compete in high school, and Natalie Pederson\'s best event was the 300 hurdles. Freshman Jessica Herbert had a really good year when you compare her high school career to her first college one. She will join two other freshmen to be experienced leaders next year."

Senior Sarah Hale joined Willets in being named All-America Scholar Athlete.
The race was the last for seniors Bean, Rader, Elizondo, Stoltzfus, Wright.