The NAIA National Championships were held at on the grounds of the Fort Vancouver National Historic site on Saturday. With cool temperatures & a surprisingly firm course, given all the recent rain, runners & fans had an almost ideal day to run. The women’s field saw a number of top returnees from the previous except for defending champion Justyna Mudy of Shorter, who graduated, and a trio from last fall went off with the intent of making the 2011 race theirs.
Obsie Birru of Grand View took the lead early and opened up a good thirty meter gap over Lauren Jimison of Azusa Pacific, Karley Coffey of Eastern Oregon and Maria Bernard of British Columbia. Bernard, a freshman, was the only new-comer in the field for Birru had placed third last year, while Jimison had been fifth & Coffey second in 2010. The field had traversed little more than 800 meters in the race but the final complexion had already been set.
With the course switching back and forth a number of times, it is reasonably fan friendly and the leaders swept by once again at around the 200 meter mark. Jimison had taken control of second by that time and had not only moved ahead of her other rivals but actually narrowed the gap to twenty meters behind Birru.
Although Jimison would keep her distance during the middle portion of the race, the final stages of the race saw Birru assert herself and win with a commanding margin over all challengers. The winning time was 17:15, while Jimison claimed second in 17:24. Karlee Coffey followed alone in third place with 17:42, while Maria Bernard earned fourth in 17:46. Poppy Lawman of Azusa Pacific secured fifth in 17:48, as she edged Suzanne Cornwell of California St. San Marcos, who was credited with the same time. Kelly Thompson, also from San Marcos, placed seventh & was followed by Sharon Ronoh of Lindsey Wilson & Jordan Arnold of Friends. Sora Klopfenstein of College of Idaho garnered tenth in 17:58.
The team results saw Cal State Marcos win with a low of 82 points to top Azusa Pacific by nine points. British Columbia earned third, while Northwest Christian placed fourth. Host Concordia placed eighth with 212 points. There were a number of local runners on hand including Ally Manley, who placed 60th in 19:02, and Sarah Whybark, who ran for Concordia & finished 81st.
There would be no suspense in the men’s race, because Kennedy Kithuka of Wayland Baptist went out early and essentially ran away from the field. His final time of 23:15 gave him a 44 seconds margin over Silas Kisorio of Oklahoma Christian. John Gilbertson of The Master’s followed in third with 24:03, which gave him a two second margin over Edward Taragon, who was also from Wayland. Anthony Pizzo (24:10), Evans Kirwa (24:16), Greg Montgomery (24:17) & Daniel Tubei (24:18) earned positions fifth through eighth respectively and Austin Ellis of Milligan & Bryson Harper of Bryan rounded out the top ten. Old friend Wade Meddles, a sophomore from Azusa, who was a Foot Locker finalist two years ago, placed fifteenth with 24:31.
Oklahoma Christian won the men’s team title with 93 points to defeat Cal State San Marcos, which had 88. Southern Oregon, which was led by Ryan Sorenson‘s sixteenth place effort, placed third and Lewis & Clark State of Idaho took fourth.