Clay Sidenbender | Echo
The track and field teams concluded their indoor season at the NAIA Indoor National Championships. The men's team tied with five other teams for 25th place out of 57 teams. The women's team tied two other teams for 11th place out of 56 teams.
The meet took place at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota Mar. 1-2. Head Coach Rod Waters said he was satisfied with the way his teams performed.
"As the head coach . . . my number one goal was to go in and have fun, first and foremost, and also reach your highest potential," Waters said. "I think for the most part, across the board, that's what happened, and I think it was a successful meet."
According to the Taylor Athletics website, the men had previously finished ninth, 15th and 21st. This year's performance fell short of previous performances at Nationals. They had seven athletes competing in five events, with five athletes earning All-American status.
Junior Caleb Anthony finished fifth in the 60-meter hurdles event, earning his sixth All-American honor. The distance-medley team also claimed All-American honors with a fifth-place finish.
"I performed well in the relay and more so in the individual events, it comes down to strategy," junior Shauntis Lewis said. "I believe a lot of my shortcoming in the individual event was just not being confident in the strategy and kind of letting the race play out."
Lewis competed in both the 800-meter run and the distance-medley relay. He finished ninth in the preliminaries for the 800-meter run. He failed to qualify for the finals by one place.
But the most exciting performance from the men's team was senior Ben Byrd's mile run.
"In fact, the person leading the race for the entirety of the race died within the last 10 meters and ended up finishing eighth overall," Lewis said. "So, anything can happen. Anything can happen in racing. Within the last 50 meters (of the mile), I was fairly confident that Ben was going to place and he solidified his place as an All-American."
Lewis and Byrd competed together on the Taylor cross country and track and field teams. He said Byrd is a class act in racing and the All-American honor felt right.
The women's team finished 20th in their two previous NAIA national performances. With 13 athletes competing in eight events, they outperformed expectations.
"I know we had some things that didn't go our way," Waters said. "Some events that could have been a little higher, but to come out 11th with those things happening, we're very blessed and very fortunate that everything turned out the way it did."
Seven athletes from the women's team earned All-American status. Senior Plenseh-Tay Sakeuh and junior Rachel Blagg earned All-American status in two events. The other All-American athletes were Sarah Harden, Abbey Brennan, Margie Crosby and Anna Souzis.
Both teams are scheduled to start their outdoor season March 22-23 at the Emory Invite.