OC men win SAC cross country title; women 2nd

OC’s Brayden Barrientez finished eighth in the Sooner Athletic Conference Championships, helping the Eagles to the team win.

SHAWNEE, Okla. (Nov. 5, 2011) – With five runners finishing in the top 11, No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Christian swept to a convincing win on Saturday in the Sooner Athletic Conference men’s cross country championship.

The win earned the Eagles an automatic berth in the NAIA Championships in Vancouver, Wash., in two weeks, a meet at which they’ll be favored to win the program’s first national title.

OC’s women finished second behind Wayland Baptist, but two Lady Eagles qualified as individuals for the national meet – freshman Jacqueline Hallam and senior Erin Sesemann.

OC’s men had handily defeated all NAIA comers this season and Saturday proved to be no different, even though No. 10 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 19 Wayland Baptist – a former top-ranked squad – figured to provide formidable challenges in the conference meet. OC posted a team score of 31, well ahead of Wayland Baptist (50) and OBU (59). The Eagles earned their third SAC title in four years.

“It is nice to have this meet out of the way so we can focus solely on nationals,” OC head coach Mark Thompson said. “We still have some work to do.”

Wayland Baptist’s Kennedy Kithuka outdueled OC’s Silas Kisorio for the individual title. Kennedy covered the 8-kilometer course in 23:29, while Kisorio – who’d beaten Kithuka earlier this season – finished in 23:57. Wayland Baptist’s Edward Taragon finished third in 24:06, with OC’s Geoffrey Njonjo fourth in 24:33.

But while the Eagles’ next three runners all finished in the top 11, the Pioneers only had one other runner in that group. OBU had only one top-10 runner, ninth-place Adam Godwin.

David McWilliams, OC’s No. 3 runner all season, continued a solid campaign with a sixth-place finish in 24:57. Brayden Barrientez was eighth in 25:37 and freshman Roberto Diaz was OC’s fifth runner, finishing 11th in 25:51.6

Also for OC, Austin Simkins was 13th in 25:59 and Nathan Mesta was 18th in 26:16.

“The guys executed our race plan very well,” Thompson said. “Our depth really showed today. Our conference very strong this year, and I think three teams will go to nationals.”

After the three ranked teams, the order of finish was Lubbock Christian, Rogers State, Oklahoma City University, Southern Nazarene, John Brown and Northwestern Oklahoma State.

In the women’s race, Wayland Baptist posted a 30 team score to easily down both OC (63) and OBU (65). Brenda Felipe of Rogers State won the individual title, covering the 5-kilometer course in 18:38. Wayland Baptist’s Milca Villegas was second in 19:03, while Hallam was third in 19:15.

Sesemann was seventh in 19:27, qualifying her for the NAIA meet for the second straight year.

OC freshman Noemi Hernandez was 14th in in 19:50 and senior Melyssa Cardenas was another second behind in 15th place. Senior Cady Block was 24th in 20:13 and freshman Kaley Denegar was 59th in 23:20.

“Our women gave it their all,” Thompson said. “I am thrilled with our two individual qualifiers. It was a very trying season with several setbacks, and to finish a solid second at conference is a small victory for our program.”