2014 Bulldog indoor track & field preview

2014 Bulldog indoor track & field preview

By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

At a glance:
Head coach: Kregg Einspahr (22nd year)
2013 men’s indoor GPAC finish: 3rd
2013 women’s indoor GPAC finish: 4th
2013 men’s indoor national finish: 27th
2013 women’s indoor national finish: 13th
2013 men’s indoor All-Americans (8): Jonathon Becker (4x400 meter relay), John Cartier (4x400 meter relay), Ben Hinckfoot (4x400 meter relay), Jared Hoffman (4x800 meter relay), Andrew Malan (4x800 meter relay), Taiheem Pleasant (4x400 meter relay), Adam Prahlow (4x800 meter relay), Ben Sievert (4x800 meter relay)
2013 women’s indoor All-Americans (7): Stephanie Coley (shot put), Jamie Crouse (weight throw), Brittany Erdmann (shot put), Megan Letts (4x800 meter relay), Jena Schwalenberg (one mile; 4x800 meter relay), Jenean Williams (4x800 meter relay), Kim Wood (4x800 meter relay)

OUTLOOK:
There’s a strong vibe running through the rafters of the Walz Arena field house on campus at Concordia University every day from 3:15 to 5:00 p.m., a sense of excitement for something that has never been accomplished in the history of the school. The indoor track and field season is looking to be a promising one for the Bulldogs, who are chasing their first ever men’s GPAC championship in the sport, and are feeling very confident in their potential for success.

“It’s definitely really realistic for us to win the conference championship,” senior hurdler, sprinter and All-American Ben Hinckfoot said. “We have a really strong team all throughout, from jumps, hurdles, sprints, throws – everything. We’re looking really, really, good. Winning the conference championship is the main goal. It would be really disappointing if we didn’t win it.”

The men’s squad will return numerous top athletes from a year ago, many of whom traveled to the indoor national championships in Geneva, Ohio, which will again host the national championships this year.

Concordia athletes who traveled to Ohio last year include senior Jonathon Becker, who qualified in the 60 meter hurdles, senior John Cartier in the 400 meter dash and senior Carson Farr who placed 10th nationally in the pole vault. Seniors Adam Prahlow and Alex Heiden competed on a qualifying distance medley squad, while Prahlow, junior Ben Sievert, and senior Andrew Malan will try to qualify once again for the 4x800 meter relay which took 4th a year ago. The loaded 400 meter relay team of Cartier, Hinckfoot, Becker and junior Taiheem Pleasant will look to improve on their 5th place finish last season.

Returning for his 22nd year as head coach, Kregg Einspahr is optimistic that his teams are headed in the right direction.

“It would appear that senior hurdlers Jonathon Becker and Ben Hinckfoot are ready for great things,” Einspahr said. “In addition, senior pole vaulter Carson Farr, senior 400 meter specialist, John Cartier, and distance runners, (senior) Hayden Hohnholt and Ben Seivert as well as (sophomore) thrower Cody Boellstorff have been looking very good in practice.”

While the Bulldogs are no doubt feeling good about their chances to win a conference title as they reload from a successful season a year ago, Einspahr also commented on freshmen who could make some noise this winter.

“Sprinter CJ Muller is training very well right now,” Einspahr said. “He had a great high school career, is a hard worker and has a great attitude.”

Hinckfoot voiced a similar opinion and expressed his confidence in his fellow teammates, which has continued to grow throughout the young season.

“We have a really good freshman class that came in this year,” Hinckfoot said. “We have really strong leadership from the seniors, juniors and sophomores that are coming back, definitely a lot of potential for the guy’s team this year. We’ve been training really hard throughout fall track.”

Hinckfoot’s high aspirations for the Concordia track and field squads are no secret. However, he has a few goals of his own that he would like to accomplish.

“Definitely the goal is to win a national championship,” Hinckfoot said.

After an incredible season a year ago, Hinckfoot is ready to take the next step

Improving his start in the 60 and 110 meter hurdles is something that Hinckfoot admittedly needs to work on. Work in the weight room and in his endurance will also be crucial to Hinckfoot’s success. But as he steadies his focus for the 400 meter hurdles, his primary race, Hinckfoot is prepared to leave it all on the track one last time.

“As an individual, the expectations are high,” Hinckfoot said. “I know I need to work really, really hard to get back to that level I was at and if I want to do better, I’m going to have to work even harder. That’s going to be really important.

“I’m really excited for this year. It’s my senior year, it’s really the last opportunity that I’ll have to run track and field. I want to make sure that I go out without any regrets, making sure that I devote myself wholly to this, to make sure that my goals are met and my expectations are met and just to make sure that I’m the best leader that I can be as a senior.”

As the season approaches, Einspahr is careful to jump to conclusions as to where his Bulldogs stand amongst the ever-challenging GPAC conference competition.

“It’s a little early to say,” Einspahr said. “Doane is the defending team champion.  I think we have the most balanced men’s team we have ever had with big scoring potential in a variety of events.  Our men’s team should be in the hunt for the men’s team championship.”

As for the women’s squad, the expectations have risen from a year ago. They too will be contending for a shot at the conference title and will likely be battling it out with the likes of Doane and Dordt College.

“I think we can compete right in the middle of that mix,” Einspahr said.

Senior Lydia Pomerenke, a seventh place finisher at last year’s outodoor national championships, is excited for the possibilities that this season will bring for the women’s track and field team.

“In the past three years the women struggle at indoor, and we never place particularly well in conference,” Pomerenke said. “I want the girls to place top two indoor in conference. Outdoor, we seem to be a much more rounded team. We won conference two years ago, and I want to do it again. I want us to continue past the GPAC and compete nationally.”

The women will have plenty of talent to work with. Sophomore Kim Wood returns after qualifying for the 600 meter race last season. Senior Jeanean Williams will also return after competing with Wood on the 4x800 meter relay team that placed fourth a year ago, but will be looking for two additional replacements to reach that same goal this year.

Sophomore Stephanie Coley and junior Brittany Erdmann, who placed fifth and seventh respectively in the shot put will be looking to return to Geneva once again. Senior Jamie Crouse, who placed third in the weight throw will join Pomerenke and senior distance runner Sarah Kortze as females with All-American past All-America recognition. Einspahr also noted that freshman Paige Getz will also be “a good addition in the high jump.”

“Sarah Kortze and Jamie Crouse are poised to have outstanding seasons,” Einspahr said. “Kim Wood and Lydia Pomerenke have also been training very well.”

For Pomerenke, her final season will bring numerous goals that she is set to achieve, many of which include records she has set herself. The addition of a new multi-event coach has brought a determined and focused approach for the two time All American.

“My goals are focused on school records,” Pomerenke said. “I want to break the pentathlon record, my own heptathlon record, hopefully hurdles as well. I want to qualify for indoor nationals and bring home a plaque. I want to beat my results from last year, for outdoor season. I want to be a 3 time all American.”

As she chases her dreams one last time, Pomerenke is keeping in mind what she will need to do if she hopes to experience success.

“Personally, I would like to improve on all my events, but specifically, I need to improve on my high jump and 800. I would like to become faster in the hurdles so I can compete in the individual race not just the (multi-events).”

Pomerenke added one final comment which she hopes will bring awareness to the dedication that the track and field programs put in to the seasons.

“Most people don't realize that the track team starts practice the first week of school, and those who qualify for outdoor nationals don't stop until the last weekend of May,” Pomerenke said. “We have a long season, which requires commitment. Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Lydia, why did you choose to do track, it's so hard.’ But I've learned track makes me stronger physically, mentally and spiritually.”

As for a combined program, Einspahr added two more goals that he would like to see his young men and women accomplish.

“We want to develop a close team that works together, enjoys working and practicing together to achieve goals,” Einspahr said. “I want them to have fun. We would (also) like to be among the top three teams in the GPAC conference and top 25 teams in the national championships.”

Einspahr also noted that patience, consistency and good fortune in avoiding injuries will be important for Concordia this season.

The first gun of the 2014 indoor track and field season will sound at 1 p.m. as the Bulldogs travel to Doane College to compete in the Scott Nisely Memorial Track and Field Classic on Saturday. Field events will commence at 11 a.m.

17 January 2014

Seniors Jamie Crouse (above) and Ben Hinckfoot (below) are two of several returning All-Americans for a Concordia track and field program that has made a living near the top of the GPAC and among the top 25 programs in the NAIA.