Three North Coast Athletic Conference championships, two career coaching milestones, and a trio of All-America selections highlighted the winter sports season at Ohio Wesleyan.
The men’s basketball team shared the NCAC championship with a 15-3 record, repeating as conference champion for the first time since the 1987-88 team won the last of four consecutive NCAC titles.
Ohio Wesleyan received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, the Bishops’ fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, and hosted the first and second rounds at Branch Rickey Arena.
The Bishops defeated Pitt-Greensburg, 114-68, in the first round. For head coach Mike DeWitt ’87, the win was his 284th at Ohio Wesleyan, giving him more wins at OWU than any other men’s basketball coach.
In the second round, OWU defeated Lynchburg 97-94. Sophomore guards Nate Axelrod and Seth Clark, and junior post Ben Simpson scored 22 points apiece, and senior wing Claude Gray added 20 points, giving the Bishops their first ever quartet of 20-point scorers in a game.
The Bishops advanced to the sectional semifinals (final 16 teams) for the first time since 2008, but lost 97-84 to eventual national runner-up Benedictine. OWU finished the season with a 25-5 record, the second-highest season win total in school history.
Axelrod was named NCAC Player of the Year, the Bishops’ fourth NCAC Player of the Year selection in the last five seasons. Clark and Simpson also were first-team all-conference selections, and Gray was a second-team All-NCAC pick.
Axelrod was named Great Lakes Region Player of the Year by D3hoops.com and received second-team All-American laurels from D3hoops.com and third-team All-America honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He ranked fifth in the NCAC in scoring with an average of 17.2 points per game and led the league in assists with an average of 5.6 per game. He also led the league in assist/turnover ratio (3.8).
The women’s track & field team won its 10th consecutive NCAC championship, outscoring Oberlin, 171-131½ in the conference championship meet. Individual honors included:
Senior Abbey Warth was named Most Outstanding Middle Distance/Distance Performer after winning the 800-meter and mile runs in respective times of 2:16.86 and 5:04.61.
Junior Sarah Fowler won an NCAC title and set school and meet records, winning the 5000-meter run in 17:17.65 to break her own school record of 17:46.27 and the NCAC record of 17:19.23.
Freshman Alyssa Acevedo won an NCAC title and set a school record, winning the long jump with a leap of 18-2¾ to break the school record of 18-1 set by Emily Brown the previous week.
Meanwhile, the men’s track & field team outscored Wabash, 223-183½, giving the Battling Bishops their first NCAC indoor title since 2010. Individual honors included:
Seniors Ahmed Abdel Halim and Adam Turner were named Most Outstanding Performers. Abdel Halim was named Most Outstanding Field Events Performer after winning the triple jump (46-4½), finishing second in the long jump, and placing fifth in the high jump. Turner was named Most Outstanding Sprints/Hurdles Performer after winning the 200- and 400-meter dashes in respective times of 22.83 and 50.12.
Five Bishops qualified for the NCAA Division III championship meet, with Abdel Halim and Fowler winning All-America honors. Abdel Halim finished sixth in the triple jump with a leap of 47-4½. Fowler finished eighth in the 5000-meter run in 17:13.13 to win her first All-America citation in track & field and continue her outstanding 2015-16 year. Fowler won All-America honors in cross country in November, finishing 24th to become Ohio Wesleyan’s third All-American in women’s cross country. Her time also broke the school record of 17:17.65 she set earlier in the season.
Mark Beckenbach ’81 is associate director of media relations and sports information director at Ohio Wesleyan.