Local runners for Shawnee St. in NAIA championship

PORTSMOUTH – Shawnee State sophomores Sarah Biehl of Fort Frye and Halle Richards of Warren are slated to make their NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championship debuts this week. Both Biehl and Richards have qualified in the 5,000 meters, while Richards has also qualified for the 10,000 meters. This season marks the first time in the four-year history of women’s track that the Bears have sent two individuals to the NAIA Championships in the same season.

The NAIA Track & Field Championships will get underway on Thursday, and continue through Saturday in Gulf Shores, Ala. Richards will get things underway for the Bears Thursday night at 7:45 p.m. with the 10,000 meter finals. Both SSU runners will be back on the track Friday for the 5,000 meter trials that are scheduled for 6:10 p.m. The finals for the 5,000 meters are slated for Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Running in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, Richards has qualified the same two events that Brittney LiPira ran during the 2013 NAIA meet. LiPira was the first SSU runner to qualify the 10,000 meters in program history last spring. Richards enters this weekend’s meet seeded 10th overall in the field of 19 with her personal best time of 37:09.37. That time ranks Richards second in program history in the event behind LiPira. During the MSC Track Championships, Richards became the first runner in program history to win the conference title in this event.

For the first time in program history, the Bears will have two individuals running in the same event as both Richards and Biehl will compete in the 5,000 meters. Both Sara Armstrong (2011) and LiPira (2013) have previously competed in this event for the Bears at the national meet. Richards is seeded 17th in the field of 26 with her personal best time of 17:33.73. Richards is also ranked second in school history in this event with a varsity track record that is second only to SSU Hall of Fame inductee Lisa Davies who ran 17:24.33 during the club track era.

Biehl will also run the 5,000 meters. Her personal best time of 17:39.35 has her seeded 23rd overall in the field. Biehl’s best time from this season ranks her as the fifth quickest individual in program history. Biehl was named the MSC Track Athlete of the Week earlier this spring. She is the only runner on the women’s side to earn this honor as she has done so during both the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

All-American honors are on the line for the top eight finishers in each event this weekend. Shawnee State has yet to crown an All-American in women’s track. Richards was an All-American in cross country this past fall with her 17th-place finish at the national meet. Biehl, the 2013 MSC Cross Country Runner of the Year, was a 37th-place finisher at the NAIA Track Championships this past fall.