Greater Tulsa Reporter
Courtesy Lincoln Christian Athletic Department
A first was made in Lincoln Christian school history when its cross-country teams captured the Class 4A state championships Oct. 22 in Shawnee.
The boys won the title for the third straight year while the girls got their first.
Each team also did it with new coaches at the helm, although both were familiar with the program. Martha O’Rourke had previously coached both the Eagles and Lady Eagles for seven years, before retiring and turning the reins over to Stephen Lewelling and Kailan Woods, respectively, who were assistants for each team.
“It was incredible,” Lewelling says of his team winning. “We knew there was really good competition with Bethany and Metro. We knew we had to work real hard. The kids just sold out to the idea of leaving it all out there.”
Each team also had a runner-up, with junior Luke Murphy taking those honors for the boys and senior Alyssa Solberg getting it for the girls.
“It’s fun because you did it together,” Woods says. “The boys have been winning and the girls just accomplished it. Our guys coach and I work side-by-side everyday like we both equally pour into both programs. It’s like one big massive family, to be able to celebrate a state championship in the same year is a great feeling and an incredible accomplishment by our kids.”
In the boys’ competition, the Eagles won with 57 points, beating Metro Christian, who finished with 80. Bethany was third with 112.
“The guys are really focused and driven,” Lewelling says. “They have a great ability to put distractions aside and focus on the task at hand.”
Murphy finishing the boys’ run with a time of 16:02.88. Berryhill’s Daniel Mazzei won the meet after completing the race at 15:33.18.
“I, honestly, was not focused on how I was going to do,” Murphy says. “I was thinking about how my team was going to do. I really didn’t care how I placed. I knew all the hard work I had done was going to show itself, but I was thinking about our team and hoping they could put all the pieces together and pull out a win.”
Other runners for the Eagles at state were Preston Turner (16:41.18), Brock Sherwin (17:00.18), Harison Michael (17:16.28) and Clay Levell (17:25.62).
The Eagles are in a good position to four-peat next season, because they have no seniors on their squad. Everyone will be back.
In the girls’ race, the Lady Eagles finished with 66 points, also beating Metro Christian, who finished with 86. Plainview, a school based out of a community in Ardmore, was third with 97.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Woods says. “We talked a lot about a vision. The Bible says where there is no vision, the people perish. So we talked a lot about that and the strength God will give you as you honor him.”
The girls attributed winning state to having a vision of putting in more miles in practice than they ever have before, Woods says.
“There’s really no explanation for it other than God’s grace and favor and the work ethic of those kids,” Woods said. “They persevered.”
“That was fantastic,” Lewelling says in regards to the girls’ winning state as well. “They were not favored to win at all. They really busted their tails in the season. Every practice, they gave it their all and it paid off in the end.”
“It was probably one of the greatest joys of my life to see those kids come together and accomplish that,” Woods says. “There is just something about being a coach and mentoring those kids and they work pay off in a state championship, I don’t think you could ask for anything more. And the way they ran was unbelievable.”
The Lady Eagles had run 34 seconds faster than they ran all season long, Woods says.
Solberg, who won the individual title last year, achieved her second-place finish with a time of 11:39.88.
“Getting an individual state title last year felt amazing, but doing it with a team by my side felt 10 times better,” Solberg says. “I loved the fact that we talked about winning all season, put in work together for months, and grinded it out until the very end. Finishing my senior year with a team state title is one of the best feelings and I am so proud of how hard my team and I worked for that accomplishment.”
Winning the individual medal was Maicie Brown from Weatherford, who ran a time of 11:35.62.
Other Lady Eagles who ran for Lincoln Christian were Isabella Murphy (12:23.84), Ariana Cruz (12:24.31), Jaylen Riley (12:28.28) and Asia Pybas (12:41.53).
Besides Solberg, Pybas, Emily Young and Emily Grace Long are the team’s seniors.
“I really truly believe we will compete at a high-level,” Woods says. “We won’t have any seniors next year. I got a couple of juniors, sophomores and freshmen. We’re really young, we have great talent coming, so our expectations is to continue to compete at our very best ability and be highly successful.