Azusa Pacific University's track team has traveled to West Virginia, Arkansas and Michigan to win the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics national championships the last five years. But this year, to make it an unprecedented sixth title in a row, it doesn't have to leave its back yard.
Azusa Pacific is playing host to the annual NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships starting this morning. This is the first time the meet has been held on the West Coast since 1958, when it was in San Diego.
Two weeks ago, it appeared as if Azusa Pacific's task of repeating would not be easy. Wayland Baptist of Texas, with a deep supply of talented sprinters, seemed to be the clear-cut favorite.
But things have changed. Six of Wayland Baptist's top runners will not compete in the meet. Sprinters Craig Taylor and Larry Watt have hamstring pulls, Kenny Brokenburr will not compete because of disciplinary reasons and Alrick Monroe has left the team to enlist in a training program with the Navy. Two of Wayland Baptist's quarter-milers, Lorenzo McGill and James Rolle, will also miss the meet because of disciplinary reasons.
Taylor and Brokenburr were the favorites in the 100 and 200 meters, respectively, and McGill was one of the leading contenders in the 400 meters and anchored the 1,600-meter relay team.
Wayland Baptist's biggest problem is in the 400-meter relay, in which Coach John Creer will have to find replacements for Taylor, Watt, Brokenburr and Monroe. The foursome has the fastest qualifying time of 39.61 seconds.
"We will still run the relay with quarter-milers and move a couple of athletes into the 200 to try to take up the slack, but these losses have significantly reduced our chances to win the men's title," Creer said.
That should clear the path for Azusa Pacific to win the title again. But Coach Terry Franson is not taking anything for granted.
"Our competition is not with other teams, but with ourselves," Franson said. "We can't control what their destiny is; all we can control is our own destiny and hope it's good enough."
Wayland Baptist should still be among the top teams in the sprints and middle distances, and Prairie View of Texas is also considered among the contenders. But there is little doubt that Azusa Pacific has emerged as the favorite.
Azusa Pacific could get off to a fast start with a one-two finish in the decathlon behind defending champion Jack Nance and last year's runner-up, Rich Verbal. Nance has a best of 7,098 points in the decathlon and is among the top contenders in the high jump.
Azusa Pacific's top entry in the weight events is Ade Olukoju, a sophomore from Nigeria who has NAIA-leading efforts of 196 feet 10 inches in the discus and 61-3 in the shotput after winning the events at last year's meet. Another Cougar favored in the weight events is senior Steve Prokop in the hammer with a best of 209-9.
The Cougars also have a strong group of hurdlers led by Nigerians Ike Mbadugha and Herbie Akpom, and Anthony House in the 110-meter high hurdles and Brian Arnold in the 400-meter intermediates. Akpom could also score for Azusa Pacific in the high jump and long jump.
"We're playing to win," Franson said. "We're the defending champions, and we're not planning on resting on our laurels. We plan on winning, and if somebody else wants to win, they're going to have to beat us first."
A pitcher cannot record a win and a save in the same game under National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rules, but Chris Haslock of Cal State Dominguez Hills met the requirements for both in his team's season-ending 8-5 win over Cal State Los Angeles on May 13.
After starting the game as the left fielder, Haslock was brought in to pitch with the score tied, 4-4, in bottom of the seventh inning. He got his team out of the jam, and the Toros came back with four runs in the eighth for an 8-4 lead.
Then, after holding Cal State L.A. scoreless in the bottom of the eighth, Haslock moved back to the outfield and Kevin Smith was brought in to pitch in the ninth.
But when Cal State L.A. loaded the bases with one out, Dominguez Hills Coach Andy Lopez once again called upon Haslock for relief and he retired the final two batters to preserve the win.
College Division Notes