The Great American Conference (GAC) recognized senior Sydney Lawrence as the women’s cross-country runner of the week.
The UCO Land Run took place Sept. 1 where Lawrence ran for 18.33.7, which was an individual best.
Along with Southwestern State Oklahoma quarterback Casey Freeman, Lawrence was recognized as one of Oklahoma’s college players of the week for Aug. 27 thru Sept. 2.
This was the first race of the season for Lawrence. Despite feeling shaky about the race, Lawrence adjusted quickly.
“It was September first and I was pretty excited about getting things started again,” Lawrence said. “I knew that this being the first race it was going to feel a little rough, but it always feels good to get into the racing groove again.”
In her first meet back, she and five other runners from OBU finished in the top nine.
“It was great to finish first and contribute, but I definitely believe that I was an equal contributor with the rest of the teammates,” Lawrence said.
However, Lawrence felt as if her teammates were right by her side. She was not alone in her personal contribution to her victory.
“These girls are so dedicated and get the job done and that is the difference maker between winning and losing,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence is a senior from Stilwell, Okla. and has only continued to receive more recognition during her tenure on Bison Hill.
Last year as a junior, she was recognized as an NCAA All-American, All-Region, First-Team All-GAC, a GAC Scholar-Athlete and GAC Runner of the Week in September.
“It’s really cool to have opportunities like this point to Christ as my help and source of strength,” Lawrence said.
Like many other athletes, Lawrence has been through battles of effort and hardships through running.
“The accolades are great, but they didn’t come without work and hard times,” Lawrence said. “I’m so thankful for the platform he has given to me to glorify his name.”
Many have heard the saying, “saving the best for last.” Lawrence said she has confidence in herself and her teammates to make that same outcome possible.
“I think we are about to see the best season yet,” Lawrence said.
The squad is currently led by coach Ford Mastin. For Mastin, this is his 23 years serving as head coach for OBU. Since Mastin took charge, there have been over four hundred All-American awards. He has turned OBU into a historic program. Mastin has coached numerous legendary athletes during his tenure as the head coach of OBU.
Lawrence says that the best of her and her teammates is yet to come. The early boost of this season will drive her to accomplish more.
“I think we are about to see the best season yet,” Lawrence said. “I am so impressed and encouraged by these girls every day and their desire to be the best.”
Just recently, Lawrence appeared in Joplin, Missouri for the Missouri Southern Stampede and did not miss a single beat from her previous accomplishment.
Lawrence finished first for OBU with a time of 17:59.2 in an ugly meet with plenty of heat. Overall, the team finished first in terms of Division II opponents and only lost to two Division I teams. With this result, the team has proved that they can run well in poor weather conditions and look to have a bright future with the season moving forward.
Lawrence and the team will make an appearance in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the Chili Pepper Festival Sept. 22.
This past summer some of our Bison athletes had the opportunity to share the love of Christ 2,712.55 miles away from home.
The OBU male and female cross-country team left for their seven day trip to Mindo, Ecuador this past June. This mission team consisted of Kaylee Crowsen, Sydney Lawrence, Michaela Phipps, Berkley Price and Nathan Crowsen, along with their coach, Matt Kennedy.
“We had an opportunity to witness to children in the form of sports camps,” head cross-country coach Matt Kennedy said. “We offered a soccer camp to the locals. During the camps, we would have a time of learning the sport and a time of devotional each day.”
“A couple of evenings, we even went to some houses and visited people that were either needing prayer, or needing to hear about Jesus,” senior cross-country runner Sydney Lawrence said.
Before the members of the team could board the plane to Mindo, Ecuador they had to come up with fundraising ideas to get there.
“We had a pancake breakfast at The Gathering Place, a coffee shop downtown, we did a couple of bake sales at our track meets, and we sold t-shirts made by Berkley’s dad, Jim,” Lawrence said.
“Individually we asked for donations from friends and family and made things to sell or had yard sales.”
Once arriving, it did not take long for the people of Ecuador to focus their attention and love to the American cross-country team.
“We were out in the village telling people about the soccer camp we were having,” Lawrence said. “One of the little girls noticed that we had walked up and ran to me and hugged me. I felt so loved in that moment by a complete stranger. I can not explain how much joy I felt. It was like God had reminded me right then how easy it is to love others. I do not have to spend a lot of money or do a big project; I just need to see who is in front of me and bring love and joy to them.”
With Lawrence as a senior and a leader on the cross-country team, she learned many lessons on this trip which she believes will help her as she leads out to exemplify Christ.
“This trip has helped me understand that loving people is the first thing I should do as a leader,” Lawrence said. “Seeking God’s help for that will help reveal to me the ways that I need to be there for others, lift them up, and point them in the right direction.”
Freshman cross-country runner Michaela Phipps, plans on pursuing missions in the future as it has always been her passion. On this trip, the Lord showed her the beauty of ministry.
“God taught me the beauty in cross-culture worship and ministry,” Phipps said. “We had the privilege of going to a church that people of multiple cultures attended, and it offered me Word of God in multiple languages throughout the service. Throughout serving with the people of Mindo, we were able to witness how God could break down language barriers through the expression of love in actions.”
As this trip taught the team members about winning people to Christ on the mission field, coach Kennedy hopes it will also remind the girls what winning is all about during the cross-country season this fall.
“[This trip] showed a way for those girls to act out what we want our team to be about,” Kennedy said. “We talk a lot about winning; wanting to do everything possible to help our team win and we work hard to win at a high level. If we are only doing all that for the purpose of winning, then it is pretty shallow because really running will be over. Some might remember this team for a couple of years, but eventually it will be gone. What gives winning depth is the opportunity it gives for people to notice us, and then for us to witness to them.”
Berkley Price, a freshman cross-country runner, was encouraged by the joy she saw in the kids she ministered to this summer.
“Something that stuck out to me was how much joy the kids had,” Price said. “They did not have much, but they did have joy. That really inspired me to find the joy in my life.”
Coach Kennedy compares some of his proudest moments in past cross-country seasons to the respected moment he felt on the mission field with the members, who gave up a week in their summer to serve the Lord.
“I have had many proud moments with the two seniors that went and I will have proud moments with the two freshmen, as I will be with them for four years,” Kennedy said.
“With the seniors, there has been a lot of heartwarming moments for me,” Kennedy said.
“I remember the first time both of them broke eighteen minutes, when Kaylee won the NCCAA National Championship out here, and when Sydney had a big personal record at Azusa, California. But none of those moments compare to the amount of pride I felt for them when I looked across a soccer pitch and saw them in a huddle praying with little Ecuadorian children. I got the opportunity to be proud of them in a different and greater way.”
Nick Dingus, Sports Editor (Courtesy Photo/Mya Hudgins)
College athletes are a special brand of people. They balance not only their rigorous academic schedule, but an athletic schedule as well. Oftentimes their athletic schedule is far more rigorous than their academic schedule.
“I would spend four to five hours a day on athletics, and that doesn’t include any time I would have to spend in the training room,” Dean Vanvors, a sophomore football player said.
If you add that four or five hours on top of the three or four hours of homework students are expected to complete, student athletics comprise almost double the workload of a normal student.
In addition to the time that athletics takes up from students’ lives, there is also a physical toll on their bodies. For these athletes, the physical toll of their sport has been building for years. In some cases, the strain on their body catches up to them.
Mya Hudgins is a sophomore cross country runner at OBU who began running competitively in middle school.
“When I was in sixth grade, I played on a soccer team for my city,” she said.“It was a co-ed team, but I was the only girl. Every day before practice started, we all had to run a couple of laps around the field,” Hudgins said. “Not being a very good soccer player, this was my favorite part of practice because I would beat all the boys during these laps. I thought it was funny and I made it my mission to beat them every time. This is what sparked my passion for running,” Hudgins said.
This caused her to try out for her middle school track team, and continue on to run for her high school.
“In high school I ran cross country and track and field, setting the school record in the 5K, mile, and two mile race,” Hudgins said.
Her success led her to OBU where she continued to run cross country. However, during her freshman season, she began to experience pain in her back.
“I had been having back pain since my senior year of high school, but it was never a constant pain,” she said.“One day it would hurt, the next I was fine. In my first semester of college, these back pains began to come more often,” Hudgins said. “I ran cross country season, but once it came to indoor track and field it changed. My pain was getting worse and I had another injury in my hip,” she said.
“After sitting out for about three weeks, I started practicing again. I was really excited to compete in outdoor as I already missed one season that year,” Hudgins said. “The first outdoor meet was being held at OBU. The day before the meet we all had some mileage to run. While I was running, I suddenly had pain shooting up my back and my leg and toes started to become completely numb,” Hudgins said.
The sudden increase in severity prompted Hudgins to seek medical attention.
“Eventually, the doctors realized that I had Degenerative Disc Disease, meaning one of my discs was almost completely gone, and another disc was herniated,” Hudgins said.
Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition in which natural, age-related wear-and-tear on a disc causes pain, instability and other symptoms. This condition causes chronic pain as well as intermittent episodes of severe pain. This discovery benched Hudgins for the remainder of the season, and it was decided that she would have surgery to correct the problem later that summer.
“On August 2nd, I had a 360 fusion on my L5/SI discs,” she said.“This is when they go through my stomach (below the belly button) and take out the disc, and put in a metal cadge.”
“Then take stem cells from my hip and put them in the cage to grow a new ‘disc’ in my back. Then they turned me over and went through my back; they put in two rods and a couple of screws,” Hudgins said. “A 360 fusion is a major surgery that is usually never performed under someone under the age of 30. Me being 19 at the time, I was the youngest my surgeon had ever performed this surgery on. Needless to say, I was very scared,” Hudgins said.
Hudgins’ recovery time was set for six to seven months, meaning this would be when she would be able to run again. Since Hudgins had to relearn how to walk, it meant that she would more than likely miss the entirety of her sophomore season. While her recovery was not easy it was much less time than estimated by doctors.
“I received a partial-release after three months and then my full-release after five months,” Hudgins said.
Astoundingly, Hudgins improvement continued at a break-neck speed.
“I competed in my first full race on January 20th,” she said. “Running 30 seconds faster than what my coach wanted me to hit. This was the first time I competed in about thirteen months,” Hudgins said. “I give Christ all the glory and I’m reminded every practice, race and hard day that my circumstance do not define me or my task at hand. I am so unexplainably excited to run and do what I love again,” Hudgins said.
Hudgins’ amazing return to competition has also touched the lives of her teammates according to junior runner Emily Sechrist.
“The distance girls are a close-knit group, and when one of us is missing, it makes a big difference!”
“Mya’s attitude about the whole situation is something we all look up to. While she is in pain a lot of times, or can’t do as much as she used to, she never complains,” Sechrist said. “Sometimes I even forget that she had surgery and that it still affects her, because of how positive she is about it, rarely mentioning it, unless someone asks. She always has a good outlook on the surgery and her recovery too, knowing God is in control and has a plan,” Sechrist said.
Sechrist said she also believes that Hudgins is a testimony to God’s work in her life.
“Seeing Mya back at practice is such a great testimony of hard work, patience, faith, and perseverance, and it’s amazing to have her running and even competing with us again,” Sechrist said.