GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Concordia University track and field programs balanced out the championship weekend by claiming exactly one individual national title on each day at the three-day 2017 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. Senior Lucas Wiechman became the latest national titlist by rising above his competitors in the pole vault. Wiechman took home two of the Bulldogs’ 15 All-America awards at the meet. The other national titlists were Cody Boellstorff in the hammer and Sam Liermann in the shot put.
The men accumulated 46 points and checked in at No. 5 in the team standings. Defending outdoor national champions, the Concordia women placed sixth with 36 points.
“I am incredibly proud of all of our kids,” said head coach Matt Beisel, who completed his first full year leading the track and field programs. “Our seniors had a fantastic finish to their careers. Lucas Wiechman winning the national championship in the pole vault was absolutely awesome. Same thing with Cody Boellstorff in the hammer. We also had a lot of seniors who stepped up big. A lot of good things happened with some younger kids, too. You have to mention Sam Liermann winning the shot put. I was just really happy.
“We had a number of people walk away from events dissatisfied. Fortunately, many of them are underclassmen who get another shot at it next year. Now they have a better idea of what it’s all about. Overall, the attitude has been really positive.”
Just as Wiechman was getting set to race in the finals of the 400 meter hurdles, a loud roar rang out from the crowd near the pole vault pit. With the pole vault title in hand, Wiechman glided to a fifth-place finish in the hurdles, clocking in at 54.05. Also an indoor national champion in the heptathlon, Wiechman won the pole vault competition with a personal best mark of 16’ 10 ¾.”
Saturday’s performance capped one of the greatest calendar years for a Concordia track and field athlete in program history. In 2017, Wiechman won athlete of the meet awards at the GPAC indoor and outdoor championships and at the NAIA indoor championships. He couldn’t have finished his collegiate career any better.
“I heard CJ’s (Muller) mom (yell),” Wiechman said. “It was just awesome the support I got running through the 400 hurdles. I kind of got winded from jogging over there (to the starting blocks) because I’m out of shape. I could just hear them yelling as I’m running by. I could hear all the pole vaulters. I have to thank God for all that.”
Accomplished senior Lurz began the day with hopes of making a run at a national title of his own. He waited until the finals to pop off a big throw of 57’ 4 ¾,” which put him less than two feet off the winning toss of 59’ 3.” Instead of claiming another championship, Lurz settled for third place. No reason to fret. Lurz emerged from the meet with three All-America awards, giving him 17 for his career.
Also a four-time national champ, Lurz will depart from Concordia as perhaps the greatest thrower the program has ever seen. At meet’s end, Lurz fielded plenty of handshakes and hugs for the respect he’s earned as a Bulldog.
“Across the board in the GPAC, we’ve pushed each other. We’re basically teammates,” Lurz said. “They’re good friends of mine and we feed off each other. When I hit the big one, Alex Wellington (Hastings) came back and hit another one. So did Zach (Brittain of Doane). As we competed, the marks moved up and up. It made for a great, fantastic competition today.”
Additional fresh All-America awards were claimed on Saturday by senior Tricia Svoboda (151’ 3 ¼”) and freshman Bethany Shaw (151’ 2 ½”) in the discus. They placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Concordia put seven qualifiers in the event, including junior Jan Steinbrueck, who reached the finals and finished ninth (139’ 10 ¼”). Svoboda was one of four Bulldogs to post All-America finishes in multiple events over the course of the weekend.
Also in the men’s shot put, Cody Boellstorff outperformed his seeding, advancing to the finals and ultimately placing ninth (53’ 1”). Not only did Boellstorff win the hammer throw title for the second time in his career, he also earned an All-America award in the discus with an eighth-place finish on Friday.
Humidity became a much bigger factor on Saturday than it was on Thursday or Friday. The muggy conditions played a role in sophomore Taylor Grove having to pull out of the marathon early Saturday morning. She reached the 20th mile before calling it a day.
Wiechman has notched the 15th pole vault national title in Concordia men’s track and field history. He is the first to accomplish the feat since Jeb Myers won the indoor pole vault title in 2003. The Bulldogs have a strong history in the event. School Hall of Famers TJ Kloster (six) and Gene Brooks (five) own a combined 11 pole vault national championships.
The men’s string of consecutive national championship meets with top-five finishes has grown to six. In addition, the Bulldogs managed to again defeat conference champion Doane. The group of four-year senior men placed higher than their conference rivals at every single national championship meet of their careers. In early March, Concordia took second on the men’s side and seventh on the women’s side at the indoor national championships.
“It’s so hard to imagine the team without the seniors,” Beisel said. “The returning kids we have are hungry and they are dedicated. Then you throw in a big recruiting class and I think it’s going to have a big impact. It’s going to allow us to continue to maintain conference and national competitiveness. I think we’re looking great for next year.”