By Jim O'Hara
Joliet, Ill.--The Shorter men’s and women’s track teams turn their attention to a national title this weekend when the Hawks and Lady Hawks travel to Joliet, Ill., to compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field National Championships.
“I think we have an opportunity to finish in the top five, especially the women,” Shorter director of track & field Scott Byrd said, noting the Lady Hawks enter the meet fresh from wining the NCCAA national indoor crown in February. “But it will be hard to pull it off because we have red-shirted so many of our kids this year.”
Shorter, which is finishing up its second year of a three-year transition toward becoming a full NCAA Division II member and thus ineligible to compete in the national Division II meet, will be going up against a strong field of teams that will gather at Joliet Memorial Stadium to decide the 2013 national champions.
Highlighting the event that features 31 men’s teams from around the country and 32 women’s programs are the 2012 defending champions, Indiana Wesleyan (men) and Olivet Nazarene (women), while Greenville will be back trying to secure the top spot after its men’s and women’s teams finished second last year.
The championship, being hosted by Judson University, begins Thursday with the start of the decathlon and heptathlon and resumes Friday with the conclusion of the multi-event competition, the finals of the men’s and women’s hammer throw, javelin, pole vault, high jump and triple jump, the 10,000-meter finals and the running preliminary races.
Also on Friday, the student-athletes in attendance will take part in the NCCAA’s Christian Service Project, holding clinic at the 10,000-seat stadium for Joliet-area preschoolers.
The championship comes to an end on Saturday with the finals in the men’s and women’s shot, discus and long jump, and the finals in the running events.
“From what I see, the stadium has a nice track,” said Byrd, “and it kind of looks like Barron Stadium, so maybe we’ll feel at home there.”
The Lady Hawks, who grabbed the attention of the NCCAA by winning the program’s first-ever national title on the indoor track two months ago, have a number of athletes who head into the meet with top NCCAA rankings.
Lakeisha Spikes is ranked No. 1 in 100 and No. 2 in 200; Alexis Smith is No. 6 in the 100 and the 200; Shea Spicher is ranked No. 2 in both the 5K and 10K; Tamala Daley ranked second in the long jump and triple jump while AneliseAldana is No. 6 in the triple jump; Sarah Jude is ranked fourth in the 400 hurdles; Dominique Hoskins is No. 4 in the 400; Chelsey Thomas is No. 6 in the 100 hurdles and No. 6 in the high jump; Zandra Lake is No. 8 in the 100 hurdles; and Madison Sears is No. 5 in the hammer throw.
Two of the Lady Hawks’ relay teams are also expected to make a run at an event title with the 4x100 squad ranked No. 3 and the 4x400 quartet ranked No. 2.
Six Hawks will head to Illinois with top rankings with Allen Huntley leading the way, stepping into the sprint blocks ranked No. 2 in the NCCAA in the 100 and 200, while Micah Reed also gives Shorter a threat in the sprints by being ranked No. 7 in the 200 and No. 10 in the 100.
Cole Rice carries a No. 3 ranking in the 400 into the meet; Gregory Roachford is No. 14 in the 800; David Johnson could make some noise as he’s ranked No. 3 in the triple jump and No. 15 in the long jump; and Kedemah Howard is ranked No. 9 in the triple jump.
The Hawks will be a threat in the relays as well, with the 4x100 foursome ranked No. 3 and the 4x400 team ranked No. 4.
“We’ve got a lot of young people, especially on the men’s side,” said Byrd. “But this (meet) lets them get the experience they need at a championship level.”