Track and Field history was made last weekend at the NAIA Indoor Championships, as the Southern Oregon Women’s distance medley relay (DMR) team placed 5th in the final, with a time of 12:03.3. This was the best relay finish for a national meet women’s team in school history.
The DMR consists of 4 legs: 400 meters, 800 meters, 1200 meters and 1600 meters. The order of SOU’s legs were: JR Aspen Abbott, SR Jessie Rozario, FR Kayle Blackmore and SO Jessa Perkinson. Besides Perkinson, who was an All-American after her stellar 2015 cross country campaign, the All-American status is a first for the quartet. Impressive, considering this is the first time SOU has even sent a women’s relay team to the Indoor Championships.
The race was bittersweet for one runner: senior Jessie Rozario. As she completed her leg of the race and handed off the baton, Rozario finished her career as a Red Raider which began in 2011. After norovirus derailed her bid for an All-American attempt last year at Outdoor Nationals in the 1500m race, Rozario was particularly ecstatic to achieve the elusive All-American status. “It meant the world! I wasn’t satisfied with that [2015 race] as an ending to my career.” said Rozario, “Being able to run indoor and actually finishing with an All-American status was just everything that I had hoped for as a final hoorah.” Rozario is set to graduate in the spring with her degree in Health and Physical Education.
Not to claim the four ladies were doubtful of their abilities, but the high finish wasn’t exactly an anticipated outcome. “I’m not sure we knew what to expect,” said Perkinson. That was due in part to the fact that prior to heading to Tennessee for Nationals, the DMR team had only ran the race once this season. That territory of the unknown led both Perkinson and Blackmore to feel the same way after their finish, “awesome and happy.”
The runners weren’t the only ones elated. Following the race, head coach Grier Gatlin, said “It makes me so proud to coach these girls.” Gatlin went on to praise Rozario, mentioning her ability on-and-off the track, “[She’s] a leader on the team and does everything in the classroom. Great to see her so excited afterwards.” An All-American finish; quite the way to end a career.
The trio of ladies will not compete in this weekend’s Wildcat Invitational, where the rest of the Raider Track & Field will be, but will race in next weekend’s Hornet Invite at Sacramento State University.
Follow Sports Writer Logan Stanley on Twitter @therealYelnats or email firstname.lastname@example.org.