Men's Track poised to defend NAIA Indoor national title
By Jim O'Hara
GENEVA, Ohio – This time last year, they were seeking their first national championship.
Starting Thursday, the Shorter men's indoor track team will experience what its like to defend a title.
After recording an improbable sweep of the 2011 NAIA Indoor and Outdoor Track Championships, the Hawks will see if they have what it takes to keep the banners when they begin their title defense on Thursday at the 47th Annual NAIA Men's Indoor Track and Field National Championship held at the SPIRE Institute Track and Field Complex in Geneva, Ohio.
"Winning two championships has a huge carryover factor for us," Shorter head coach Scott Byrd said about the Hawks, whose 18-man roster includes seven All-Americans and a national champion from the 2011 national championship squad.
"We're not going to rest on what we did last year," Byrd said. "We want to defend that championship banner. To do that, we have to get back at it. We've got to be willing to work even harder."
Hard work up until the final event last year put the Hawks over the top on their way to the crown.
Heading into the final event of the meet, the 4x400 relay, Shorter was in first place with a slim lead and needed a top four performance from their foursome, one that didn't earn a qualifying spot for the event until the final week of the regular season.
The quartet responded, finishing in fourth place in a storybook ending that sealed the Hawks' national title, and that result, Byrd feels, will pay added dividends this time around.
"They now understand the ups and downs of a national meet," the coach said. "They learned that every point counts. If we score points, we'll put ourselves in a position to defend it."
With 18 Hawks dotting numerous event lists this year, Shorter enters the competition in an even better and deeper position.
One of the team's biggest strengths will come in the relays, where the Hawks got 15 points from two squads in 2011 – the distance medley relay foursome won the national title and the 4x400 team's performance capped the meet. This year, Shorter has three teams entered with the Hawks sending out a contending 4x800 squad.
Back to re-assume their spots in the DMR are senior All-Americans Peter Limo and Eliud Ng'etich, while junior Oscar Ogwaro, who won last year's 5,000 indoor championship, will pass the baton along with junior Carlos Perez and senior Terrence Scruggs, who is making his first appearance in the event after being an All-American member of last year's 4x400 group.
Scruggs will still run a leg in the 4x400 race along with All-American Randy Dameron, junior Malik Fair, sophomore Adika Smith and freshman Cole Rice. Making up the 4x800 team will be Limo, Ng'etich, Perez, junior Daniel Sorenson and freshman Cory Cown
"It's possible," Byrd said, "that all three teams will be on the podium."
Shorter, which had just two entries in last year's 60 and 200-meter sprints, will also have more numbers in those events.
Junior Allen Huntley scored last year earning All-America honors in both events and will head up a potent contingent of Hawks. Junior Nigel Talton, who was on the 2011 4x400 team, will run in the 60 as will sophomore Bradley Moon and junior transfer Kirk Wilson.
When the gun sounds for the 200, Wilson and Dameron will be out to live up to their respective No. 1 and 2 national rankings in the event with Wilson having been clocked at 20.9 seconds, the fifth-best time in the country at any level, and Dameron at 21.12. Also covering the 200 meters are Huntley, Moon and Smith.
In the 400, Dameron enters as the top-ranked NAIA runner and will be joined on the oval by Fair. Ogwaro is a top favorite to defend his 5,000-meter championship, Sorenson is hoping to make some noise in the 3,000 and sophomore Trebor Holmes rounds out Shorter's hopefuls competing in the 60 hurdles.
"If we can go up there and stay healthy," said Byrd, "we'll have the numbers to put us into position to be at the top. They have to remember that the meet is not won on Thursday or Friday.
"It's won at 5 pm on Saturday."