MARION - In historic fashion, Indiana Tech claimed not just one national title on Saturday, but a pair of them.
The Warriors used talent and depth en route to winning both the men's and women's NAIA National Track and Field Championships at Indiana Wesleyan University.
The Warrior women looked more like a cross country team when they came across the finish line in the 200-meter dash on Saturday. Indiana Tech athletes placed first, third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth to score an unheard of 27 points in that single event. Those points, along with similar performances in the 100- (20 points) and 400-meter races (16 points), powered Indiana Tech to the program's first national championship.
Indiana Tech won with 122 points; Oklahoma Baptist was runner-up with 82.75 points in the meet held at Indiana Wesleyan University.
In a less dominant, but much more exciting manner, Indiana Tech men edged Oklahoma Baptist, 72-68.
The Warrior men led by two points entering the final event, the 1,600-meter relay, and relied on freshman Dareyus Person to overtake the OBU anchor in the final meters to secure the national title. Indiana Tech's relay finished second in the event, a scant .43 of a second ahead of OBU.
“It was a perfect day for our program,” Indiana Tech coach Doug Edgar said. “Our first two national championships. Our athletes went out there and competed. Everyone had a great performances; that's pretty rare.”
Edgar was named the NAIA men's and women's coach of the year, but he continually deferred credit.
“This is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” Edgar said. “This didn't just happen today. We have a great teams; we have a great coaching staff. This is for them.”
The women's victory was somewhat expected based on seed times. However, based on seed times, the Indiana Tech men would have finished fourth. But as the teams and fans discovered on Saturday, seed times don't count, only performances do.
For the Warrior women, it was their nearly perfect execution of races, which had no dropped batons, no false starts, no pulled hamstrings and no poor performances.
“If we did what we were supposed to do, we'd win, but it would be close,” Edgar said. “But we were better than that. Our depth, with all the girls getting into the 100 and 200 finals was the key.”
Edgar cited senior sprinter Adella King, as being a critical component to the team's success. It wasn't just for what she did at the championships (winning the 100, 200 and anchoring the victorious 400-meter relay team), but for much more.
“Adella is the catalyst for our program,” Edgar said. “She came in as a freshman and had a great year and that really helped our recruiting. The next group of sprinters, like Chloe Brooks came in and then the next group like Jewel Thomas and Kirsten Flake.”
King was named the meet's Most Outstanding Women's Athlete, a bonus to her great day. Until this meet, King had never won an individual national title and she placed second in the 200 the last three years.
“It feels great just to finally win,” King said of both her individual titles and the team title. “I know these girls are just going to keep on winning after I leave.”
The Warriors' depth in the women's meet culminated in victories in the 400 and 1,600 relays, but Indiana Tech also had several individual victories.
Aside from King's wins in the 100 and 200, Flake won the 400-meter race, Zalika Dixon won the 400-meter hurdles and Jeslyn Zimmerly won the pole vault.
The Indiana Tech men were also “perfect,” despite lacking the style points of the women. But they earned bonus points for grit and drama.
“I think nearly all of our guys over-achieved,” Edgar said. “We had only one champion (400-meter relay), but in every other event we scored better than we were supposed to. Things fell into place for us when (favorite) Wayland Baptist dropped a baton (400-meter relay), but our guys get credit for taking advantage of it.”
While the Indiana Tech women were busy winning and dominating events, the Warrior men were silently scoring with second places (John Broaden in the 200-meters), third places (Person in the 400-meters), fourth places (Brandon Reynard in the 400-meter hurdles), and of course, the dramatic runner-up finish in the 1,600-meter relay.
The final leg of the penultimate event began with Reynard handing off to Person in third place. Reynard then peeled left and plowed into the finish line's metal pole on the inside of the track. Reynard came away with cuts on his forearm and shoulder and finally rose to his feet just in time to see the finish.
What Reynard saw was Person bounce outside of a stumbling OBU anchor with 150 meters to go and then sprint down the homestretch for second.
“We knew if Dareyus was close with 100 to go, he'd get it done,” Reynard said of Person. “He has great closing speed.”
Reynard, like King, is a senior who has seen the Indiana Tech track programs grow from non-competitors to national champs.
“My first year here we had seven athletes, men and women, qualify for nationals,” Reynard said. “We had 52 go to NAIA Indoors this winter and then we win two national titles today. This is just fantastic."