MARION, Ind. --- Wayland Baptist is bringing home its third straight NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Team Championship, only this year it's the Pioneer men's team that will be hanging the banner. Led by the Outstanding Male Athlete Award winner, Kennedy Kithuka, the WBU men captured the title with 70 points, 19 better than second place Dickinson State University.
Kithuka dominated his two events. He lapped the entire field on his way to winning the 10,000-meters on Thursday, and although he didn't lap quite everybody in Saturday's win in the 5000, the freshman from Kenya did cross the finish line 46 seconds in front of the second place runner. Kithuka, running all alone for the final eight laps of the race, broke the school record with a time of 13:56.82
Pioneer head coach Brian Whitlock, who was named NAIA Coach of the Year, said after the meet that finally getting that men's championship banner was a great feeling. "I couldn't be happier for our guys. It was a total team effort."
"We had some great performances, but four guys in particular really stood out. Kennedy was a crowd favorite and got standing ovations at the end of both of his races. It was obvious how hard he was working and they really appreciated that. Kirby ran a lot of races over the last three days and still managed to turn in some really great times under some really hot and humid conditions."
In his final event as a Pioneer, Dunn broke the 1:50 mark for the first time in his stellar career, posting a 1:49.45 in the 800-meters. The senior finished as the runner-up in the event, and also was a big part of the second place 4x800-meter relay team.
The other two Pioneers turning in "studly performances", according to Whitlock, were sprinters Caleb McLean and Jerry-Lee Davis.
"Caleb really gave it everything he had this week. He ran some great races in the open 400, and his splits in the relays were just super. Coach (Rohan) Thompson has been saying all year that Jerry-Lee was ready to break out, and he certainly did it this weekend at the very best time. Both those guys also did a tremendous job on the relays."
Davis capped off a terrific three days with his eight-point performance in the 200-meters. The sophomore ran a personal best 20.97 to cross the line just .09 behind the winner.
McLean highlighted his big weekend with a third place finish in the 400-meters. The junior ran a 47.15 to give the Pioneers a big six points, and anchored both the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relay teams.
Joining McLean and Davis on the 4x100 relay were Lee Prevost and Myran Roundtree. The foursome ran a 40.67 to finish third, while Andre Hamilton and Mario Scott made up the remaining part of the 4x400 team, which wrapped up the meet with a 3:10.82, and also crossed the finish line in third place.
Whitlock credited Thompson, the WBU associate head coach, with getting the most out of all his sprinters and jumpers.
"Coach Thompson does a geat job with those guys. We've been together three years now, and I hope we stay together for three more years at least."
On Friday evening, the team of Jarrod Morris, Scott, Hildon Boen and Dunn captured runner-up honors in the 4x800 relay, running the 3200-meters in 7:30.40. Also on Friday, Roundtree finished fourth in the long jump competition, earning All-American honors with a mark of 7.35 meters (24-1.5). The top six finishers in all events are awarded NAIA All-American honors.
After getting off to a promising start, the two-time defending champion Wayland women fell to 11th place this year, scoring 29 points. The women scored points in two of the three relay events, recording a runner-up finish in the 4x800 on Friday.
Elva Pedroza, Milca Villegas, Jennifer Secrest and Kydia Echols ran a 9:02.15 in the 4x8, finishing just ahead of third place Malone University. In Saturday's final event, Keliesha Ross, Leandria Lee, Milca Villegas and Echols posted a 3:50.60 in the 4x400 to come in seventh.
The women's 4x100-meter relay team of Bianca Grant, Leandria Lee, Kimberly Smith and Keliesha Ross posted a 45.58 in the sprint relay early Saturday afternoon and finished second, but were disqualified because they had tape on the baton.
Smith, Echols and Lee each earned points in individual events. Smith saw her string of national championships in the sprints come to an end with a fourth place finish in the 100-meters. The junior ran an 11.88.
Echols, who ran finished out her WBU career by running three rounds of 800-meter races, two 800-meter relay events, and two 400-meter relay events during the three-day national meet, placed sixth in the 800-meter finals on Saturday with a time of 2:12.02.