GENEVA, Ohio — Southern Oregon concluded its trip to Ohio with a historic performance as the top-ranked distance medley relay squad set a new NAIA record while claiming the event title at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The DMR team of Zach Boyd-Helm, Jonz Olander, Kevin Jorgensen and Eric Avila improved on its preliminary time by an astounding 15 seconds and literally ran away with the championship. Finishing the race with a time of 9:48.16, the Raiders defeated second-place Carroll by nearly 10 seconds (9:58.08).
Southern Oregon's performance not only earned a spot atop the championship podium, but the Raiders' race etched their names into the NAIA record books. Their time broke the previous NAIA record by more than two seconds, with the old record of 9:50.88 set by Azusa Pacific at the 2009 championship meet.
"We talked a lot about being very patient at the start of because a lot of adrenaline often leads to relays starting way too fast," SOU head coach Grier Gatlin said. "We didn't want to get caught up in that, and we didn't."
The relay team led the NAIA coming into the weekend with an adjusted mark of 10:02.07, and ninth-ranked Dickinson State jumped to the top of the leaderboard with a surprising 9:59.08 in the preliminary race on Thursday. Southern Oregon left no opportunity for any of the other teams on Saturday, however, in claiming SOU's first ever indoor event national title. The win earned SOU 10 points to rank 24th in the team standings.
"It was a lot of fun, and all the athletes competed well," Gatlin said. "We didn't just show up and settle with being happy to be there."
Southern Oregon finished the weekend with the national championship and a pair of top-15 finishes. Sullivan Stevens placed 12th in the 60-meter hurdles on Saturday and the 4x400-meter relay team finished 12th in the prelims on Thursday.
"It was a great meet for our program," Gatlin said. "Our 4x400 team ran a season-best, and even though Sullivan didn't make the final, anytime you can get national championship experience it will help down the road."