Champs at last: Hawks win NAIA Indoor National Championship
GENEVA, Ohio -- On the verge of a crown for the past several seasons, everyone in the country knew it was only a matter of time before Shorter University took home a national championship in track and field.
For the Hawks, that time is now.
The Shorter men's track and field team made history on Saturday when it posted several clutch finishes late to secure the school's first-ever track national championship at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships at the GaREAT Sports Complex in Geneva, Ohio.
The Hawks scored 14 big points in the final three events of the competition to finish with 44 points -- just three ahead of runner-up Wayland Baptist (41).
Shorter head coach Scott Byrd was named NAIA National Coach of the Year and rightly so. In five short years, the two-time reigning Mid-South Conference Outdoor Coach of the Year has taken the Shorter track program from new kids on the block to legitimate national powerhouse.
This first title wasn't easy as the Hawks leaned on three national championship performances and a clutch effort in the final event of the weekend to bring home the trophy.
Freshman Paul Chelimo, the Southern States Athletic Conference Cross Country Runner of the Year who started his career off with a third-place finish at the NAIA Cross Country National Championship in the fall, won the 3,000-meter run national championship. He beat Edward Taragon of Wayland Baptist by over a second with a time of 8:28.31.
Sophomore Oscar Ogwaro took home the 5,000-meter run title with a time of 14:45.87, edging out Geoffrey Njonjo of Oklahoma Christian (14:46.16).
Shorter's distance medley relay squad of Chelimo, Allen Huntley, Eluid Ng'etich and Peter Limo made it 30 points in three events by winning the men's DMR national crown. Shorter's squad crossed the tape just two-tenths of a second ahead of runner-up Oklahoma Christian to put Shorter in the lead by two points with two events to go.
In a situation only seen scripted in the movies, the Hawks sealed the championship in the most dramatic of fashions.
With one event to go, Shorter had 40 points and clung to a two-point advantage over Hastings for the team lead. Wayland Baptist lurked five points back and was a favorite to challenge for a title in the final event of the competition -- the 4x400-meter relay.
The Hawks' 4x4 team had not qualified for the national meet until the last regular season competition -- the Tiger Tune-Up held two weeks before the NAIA National Championships -- and entered the 4x4 final not really knowing what to expect.
As Wayland Baptist crossed the line in third to pocket six points that would have given them the outright lead over Shorter, the Hawks' 4x4 squad of Randall Dameron, Nick Dodson, Terence Scruggs and Nigel Talton finished directly behind Wayland in a time of 3:15.76 to score four points and send Shorter's contingent into a frenzy.
Hastings placed third with 38 points and Oklahoma Christian (34) and Asuza Pacific (34) rounded out the top five team finishers.
Shorter now stands as the odds on favorite to win the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field title, something the Hawks have closed in on over the past several seasons.
More details of the meet will come Sunday.