Shawnee sends eight to NAIA Nationals in Gulf Shores

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Shawnee State University will have several members of the cross-country team participating in the NAIA Nationals taking place May 26-28, 2016 at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Shawnee will send eight student-athletes to Gulf Shores to compete in the national tournament.

To be considered an All-American in the NAIA, a participants must place in the top eight of an event at nationals. Shawnee currently has three athletes currently ranked in the top eight heading into the three-day nationals event, Sarah Biehl, Anna Havranek and Megan Ashton.

“We have high hopes for them to do well,” Eric Putnam, Shawnee Cross-Country and Track and Field coach said. “I feel like they all three have legitimate shots.”

Biehl, a senior, is competing in her third national tournament. She will be competing in two events over the three days. Biehl will compete in the 10,000 meters as well as the 5,000 meters events.

“Sarah is ranked in the top eight in her two events,” Putnam said. “She has a shot of being an All-American twice.”

Biehl finished in the top eight of the same events at last year’s nationals, earning All-American honors twice.

“She’s going to try to repeat last year’s performance,” Putnam said. “She has, over the last year, has set the school record in most of our distance races.”

Havranek will also be competing in the 10,000 meters. The Shawnee sophomore will be competing for the second time in nationals during her, so far, short collegiate career.

“She made it last year too, so this is her second year,” Putnam said. “It’s not all that common, (for a sophomore to compete in nationals) especially for a strength-type race like a 10k (10,000 meters).”

Putnam said Havranek is a very hard worker and is a gifted kid.

“She has a 3.9 something GPA and (majoring) in pre-physical therapy,” Putnam said. “She’s a work horse and we’re very fortunate to have her on our team.”

Ashton will compete in the 3,000 meter steeple chase for the second straight year. Last year she was unable to make it out of the preliminary round. Ashton was a graduate of Fairland High School in Proctorville, Ohio.

“I feel like after doing it last year and not making it out of prelims, that she has a lot more confidence and knows what to expect,” Putnam said. “The first year you make it to any national tournament in any sport in college can be overwhelming. Some kids can come in and just take to it right away, while some need a year to do it and then next year they come back with expectations they can do well.”

Shawnee will be sending a relay team to nationals as well. Alissa Taylor, Katie Saling, Brooke Smith and Shaniah Begley will compete in a 4×800 meters relay. Begley is a Piketon High School graduate.

David Jaeger will be representing the Bears in the marathon.

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By Michael Hamilton [email protected]

Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.

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