During the decade of the 2010s, Concordia University athletics shined in ways it never had before. During that 10-year period, Bulldog squads combined for 33 Great Plains Athletic Conference championships while claiming the first three team NAIA national championships in school history. The 2014-15 academic year was particularly noteworthy with the men’s outdoor track and field team capping the year by winning the national title. The Concordia aathletic department also was rewarded as the 2014-15 GPAC All-Sports Standings champion.
All the while, Concordia Athletics has maintained the pillars of what makes it unique: family, Christ-centered, excellence, teamwork and passion. “The Bulldog family, driven by the pursuit of excellence, maximizes athletic, academic, spiritual and character development within a Christ-centered community.” Beyond the athletic success, student-athletes at Concordia continue to lead the nation in number of NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
The NAIA National Titles
- 2015 Men’s Outdoor Track & Field: Not many people expected the 2015 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships to yield a team title for head coach Kregg Einspahr’s squad, but yet it happened (in dramatic fashion). Led by a talented group of throwers, the Bulldogs racked up 59 points, barely outgunning Indiana Tech (55) and Wayland Baptist (55). Concordia caught a break when an Indiana Tech 4x400 meter runner was struck by an injury in the final event of the meet. That occurrence kept the Bulldogs in front of Indiana Tech and earned them the giant red banner. Throwing star Zach Lurz placed as the national runner up in three separate events and was named the Most Outstanding Athlete of the Meet. Meanwhile, Cody Boellstorff won the national title in the hammer throw and Lucas Wiechman placed second in the decathlon and third in the pole vault.
- 2016 Women’s Outdoor Track & Field: Incredibly, Concordia track and field celebrated a team national title in back-to-back years in Gulf Shores, Ala. This time it was the women’s turn to make history (the men also placed as the national runner up in 2016). The throwers again stole the show for the Bulldogs. Liz King won the hammer national title and was the runner up in the javelin. Concordia also got big points in the discus with Tricia Svoboda (second), Stephanie Coley (third), Kali Robb (sixth) and Kattie Cleveland (seventh) all scoring points in the event. Robb was also a national runner up in the shot put. In the end, the Bulldogs accumulated 71 team points to hold off second-place Indiana Tech (66). Never before had a Concordia women’s team won a national title.
- 2019 Women’s Basketball: Under the guidance of head coach Drew Olson, the program had accomplished basically everything possible, except close the deal and win the national title. Spearheaded by stars such as Grace Barry, Taylor Cockerill, Philly Lammers and Quinn Wragge, the Bulldogs got over the hump in March of 2019. They sealed the deal by defeating Southeastern, 67-59, in the national championship game in Sioux City, Iowa. Barry was subsequently named the MVP of the national tournament. Her addition as a transfer proved critical to Concordia winning it all. The Bulldogs had been the national runner up in 2015 and 2018. Olson’s teams also reached the national semifinals in 2012 and 2017.
The GPAC Titles
- Baseball (regular season: 2017, 2019) – Prior to 2017, the baseball program had not won a conference championship since 1986 when it competed as a member of the Nebraska Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Head coach Ryan Dupic helped change that by upgrading the talent and the culture. Stars such as Casey Berg, Christian Meza and Jason Munsch were behind the program’s turnaround.
- Women’s Basketball (regular season: 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019; postseason: 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019) – The sheer volume of conference championships is quite impressive, especially when considering that the GPAC has arguably been the finest NAIA women’s basketball conference during the decade. Drew Olson’s program is the only women’s basketball outfit to sweep GPAC regular-season/postseason titles three-straight years. Some of the names and faces change over time, but the results remain championship level.
- Men’s Cross Country (2012) – Coach Kregg Einspahr’s men’s team got on the board with a conference championship in 2012 behind GPAC Runner of the Year Colin Morrissey. He then helped the Bulldogs place 21st at the NAIA National Championships.
- Women’s Cross Country (2019) – The final GPAC championship of the decade for Concordia Athletics came courtesy of head coach Matt Beisel’s group. Freshman Kylahn Heritage placed as the conference runner up while leading the program to a conference title for the first time since 2005. The Bulldogs placed 12th at the NAIA National Championships.
- Men’s Soccer (2015 postseason) – The entire postseason run for this team was a thrilling one. It entered the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed and went on the road and advanced past Northwestern (quarterfinals), Midland (semifinals) and Hastings (championship). Head coach Jason Weides team slayed the perennial conference power in beating the Broncos, 1-0, in the title game.
- Women’s Soccer (regular season: 2017; postseason: 2014, 2016) – An impressive four-year run saw the program win three GPAC championships under head coach Greg Henson. The 2014 team broke through with the first conference title it had ever achieved. Maria Deeter and Rachel Mussell were among the standouts.
- Softball (2015 postseason) – Coach Todd LaVelle’s team had reached the national tournament in 2014, but it still had not yet won a conference title during the decade until the spring of 2015 arrived. Michaela Woodward fired every inning of the GPAC tournament as the seventh-seeded Bulldogs upset their way to the crown.
- Men’s Indoor T&F (2014) – This team ended Doane’s stranglehold on the top spot in the GPAC standings. The Bulldogs won four events on the track, including the 4x400 meter relay while winning the meet.
- Men’s Outdoor T&F (2014, 2015) – The men’s team completed a sweep of 2014 GPAC titles behind 2014 outdoor Athlete of the Meet Zach Lurz. Coach Einspahr’s group then went on to capture another title in 2015 behind the strong group of throwers that would also pilot the squad to an NAIA national title.
- Women’s Indoor T&F (2010, 2019) – Charista Zehnder garnered Athlete of the Meet honors in 2010 in ending a title drought for the program. It was the first-ever GPAC championship for women’s track and field. It took nine years for Concordia to reach those heights again in 2019.
- Women’s Outdoor T&F (2010, 2012, 2019) – Three outdoor championships came during the decade. The 2010 and 2019 years marked GPAC championship sweeps. Beisel’s Bulldogs closed the decade in style with GPAC titles from Rachel Battershell, Samantha Liermann, Erin Mapson and Addie Shaw.
- Wrestling (regular season: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019; postseason: 2016, 2017) – Wrestling was reborn at Concordia in 2009 after disappearing from the school’s sports offerings during the 1970s. Former head coach Dana Vote put the program back on the map by leading it to GPAC championship seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The program boasted the GPAC Wrestler of the Year four-straight seasons (2014 through 2017).
Senior Athletes of the Year (2010-2019)
2018: Ceron Francisco, Wrestling
2017: Chandler Folkerts, Basketball
2016: Josh Slechta, Football / Track & Field
2015: Enrique Barajas, Wrestling; Von Thomas, Football
2014: Ben Hinckfoot, Track & Field
2013: Colin Morrissey, Cross Country / Track & Field
2012: Zak Goodrich, Baseball
2011: Dana Schmidt, Cross Country / Track & Field
2010: Zach Meineke, Cross Country / Track & Field
2019: Samantha Liermann, Track & Field
2018: Mary Janovich, Basketball
2017: Amy Ahlers, Golf / Kali Robb, Track & Field
2016: Liz King, Track & Field
2015: Bailey Morris, Basketball
2014: Sarah Kortze, Cross Country / Track & Field
2013: Katie Rich, Basketball / Track & Field
2012: Amber Kistler, Basketball
2011: Beth Sutton, Track & Field
2010: Charista Zehnder, Track & Field
- Ryan Dupic, Baseball – In his fourth season (2018) as head coach, Dupic reached the 100-win mark. Dupic is now a two-time GPAC Coach of the Year and is the only coach to lead the baseball program to a conference title or a national tournament appearance.
- Kregg Einspahr, Cross Country/Track & Field – In 2016, Einspahr ended a remarkable 24-year tenure. He was a 19-time GPAC Coach of the Year and earned NAIA National Coach of the Year recognition for women’s cross country (1999), men’s outdoor track and field (2015) and women’s outdoor track and field (2016). His squads won a combined two national titles and 16 GPAC championships and claimed seven national runner-up finishes.
- Frank Greene, Softball – Greene led the softball program to three GPAC titles, including regular-season championships in 2005 and 2008. He resigned after the 2013 season as the winningest coach in program history with an overall record of 293-212-1.
- Greg Henson, Women’s Soccer – Head coach from the 2013 through 2018 seasons, Henson put together an overall record of 83-28-16 and is the winningest coach in program history. His teams won GPAC titles in 2014, 2016 and 2017. He is the only coach to ever take the program to the national tournament.
- Ben Limback, Men’s Basketball – Currently in his 16th season as a head coach (seventh at CUNE), Limback went past 200 career victories during the 2018-19 campaign. His high-water mark for wins in a season was 21 in 2016-17.
- Ed McLaughlin, Track & Field – McLaughlin has become known as a top throws coach in the nation and scooped up plenty of awards in recent years. The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association has recognized McLaughlin with six national assistant coach of the year awards and eight regional coach of the year honors. McLaughlin guided Bulldog throwers to 16 NAIA individual national titles between 2014 and 2019.
- Drew Olson, Women’s Basketball – In just his 12th season (2017-18) as a head coach, Olson reached the 300-win mark. Heading into 2020, his overall record stands at 365-97. Olson has led the program to a national title, five national semifinal appearances (two runners up) and to 10 combined GPAC championships.
- Grant Schmidt, Men’s Basketball – Schmidt presided over the program for 23 seasons (1989-2012) and had a record of 445-276. His teams won three NIAC titles and two GPAC tournament championships and reached the national tournament 10 times. His 2004-05 squad went 32-6 overall and was the national runner up.
- Dana Vote, Wrestling – Vote transformed the wrestling program at Concordia, building it into a GPAC power. Head coach for four seasons (2012-16), Vote guided the Bulldogs to 7-0 GPAC records and conference titles in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The 2016 squad placed eighth in the nation (best ever for the program) behind NAIA national champion Andrew Schulte.
- Jason Weides, Men’s Soccer – Few programs have been as consistently solid as the Bulldogs under Weides, who became head coach prior to the 2008 season. His overall record now stands at 117-89-24. In 2019 he became the winningest coach in program history, surpassing Dr. Jack Kinworthy. The 2017 team went 16-3-1 overall for a school record number of wins in a season and the 2015 squad won the GPAC tournament title.
Wrapping Up the 2010s
- All-time, Concordia student-athletes have produced the highest number of NAIA Scholar-Athletes. That number stands at 1,477 heading into 2020.
- The Learfield Directors’ Cup Standings are designed to “honor institutions that maintain a broad-based program, achieve success in many sports, both men's and women's, in which all sports that the NAIA offers a championship, and all student-athletes that compete in those sports, are treated equally.” Concordia’s average national finish in the Learfield Cup standings during the 2010s was 31.7 with a high of 16th in 2015-16. The Bulldogs placed in the top 20 each academic year from 2014-15 through 2016-17.
- Concordia track and field enjoyed an incredible decade. Not only did it win team national titles in 2015 and 2016 and combine for eight GPAC team championships during the decade, it seized 19 total individual national championships. Sixteen of those came from throwers. Athletes with multiple throws national titles included Cody Boellstorff (four), Zach Lurz (four), Samantha Liermann (three), Liz King (two) and Addie Shaw (two).
- The tennis programs continue to strive to bust loose with a GPAC championship. The women’s team came close in 2019, losing narrowly in the GPAC tournament title match. David DeSimone stepped in as a first-year head coach in 2019 and helped the Bulldogs to a school record 15 victories. Marlene Maier racked up 17 singles victories for a school single-season individual player record.
- Under Olson, the women’s basketball program was a monster in the 2010s. For the decade, the Bulldogs went a combined 284-63. Bailey Morris, the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,054 points, was the GPAC Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and was named the NAIA Division II National Player of the Year as a senior. Philly Lammers also earned GPAC Player of the Year accolades in 2019. Olson was tabbed GPAC Coach of the Year in 2012, 2017 and 2018. Mary Janovich (2017), Tracy Peitz (2014) and Katie Rich (2012, 2013) each picked up GPAC Defensive Player of the Year honors during the decade.
- At one point during the decade, the wrestling program had won 22 GPAC duals in a row. Concordia went 7-0 in conference duals each season from 2014-15 through 2016-17. The program had four GPAC Wrestlers of the Year in a row: Emilio Rivera (2014), Enrique Barajas (2015), Andrew Schulte (2016) and Ceron Francisco (2017). Meanwhile, Ken Burkhardt Jr. collected three All-America awards during the run.
- Plenty of ‘firsts’ happened during the 2010s. For instance …
- First national titles in school history for men’s track and field, women’s track and field and women’s basketball.
- First GPAC titles ever for women’s track and field (2010), men’s track and field (2010), women’s soccer (2014), men’s soccer (2015), wrestling (2015) and baseball (2017).
- First-ever national tournament appearances for women’s soccer (2014), softball (2014), men’s soccer (2015), volleyball (2015) and baseball (2017).
- Volleyball – first time advancing to the national round of 16 (2019) by way of first-ever national tournament wins.
- Baseball – first-ever national tournament win (2017).
- Softball – first-ever national tournament win (2015).
- In addition, many great moments happen away from the athletic venues. Concordia has routinely ranked as NAIA Champions of Character Gold Star Institution while accumulating thousands of hours of community service each year. Bulldog student-athletes are encouraged to become positive and contributing members of the Seward community during their time at Concordia.