CRETE, Neb. – A new indoor track and field season is officially underway. In the opening weekend of the 2019 campaign, Concordia University track and field athletes combined for seven automatic national qualifying marks. Saturday (Jan. 12)’s action featured the Ward Haylett Invite hosted by Doane. Five Bulldogs also competed at the University of Nebraska’s Graduate Classic on Friday.
Head coach Matt Beisel’s squads totaled seven event titles on Saturday. Not only a winner in the triple jump, Leah Larson emerged with a school record.
“It’s about what we expected,” Beisel said of the overall team performances. “When you’re coming off break you’ve been away from practice for three or four weeks. We work them really hard this first week back because you don’t want to be taking it easy this early in the season. Some of them were tired and fatigued and it’s the first collegiate meet for the freshmen. The next two weeks is when things are really going to start to click. You have to keep it all in perspective.”
Larson has blossomed while working with jumps coach Wayne Earney. A national qualifier in 2018, Larson appears on track for bigger and better in her senior season. The native of Norfolk, Neb., toppled the school triple jump record that had been set by Charista Zehnder in 2010 with her mark of 38’ 1 ¼,” which will put Larson back in the national championships. As of Saturday evening, Larson was listed as the NAIA national leader in the triple.
Larson headlined a stellar day on the women’s side. Returning national champion throwers Samantha Liermann and Addie Shaw wasted little time qualifying for the national meet in both the shot put and weight throw. Liermann placed fourth in the shot put (44’ 11 ¾”) and fifth in the weight throw (53’ 2 ¼”) while Shaw checked in at second in the weight throw (57’ 11 ¼”) and sixth in the shot put (44’ 8”).
In her debut meet as a Bulldog, redshirt freshman Jacee Pfeifer punched her ticket to nationals in a winning effort in the pole vault (11’ 6 ½”). Pfeifer also placed second to teammate Rachel Battershell in the 400 meter dash. Battershell and Pfeifer hit the ‘B’ standard in the 400. Also in the pole vault, McKenzie Gravo claimed the runner-up spot (11’ ¾”).
Picking up additional event titles were the women’s 4x400 meter relay, the men’s 4x800 meter relay, Taylor Grove (3,000 meters) and Josiah McAllister (one mile). The women’s 4x4 posted a ‘B’ standard time of 4:03.48 and consisted of Battershell, Sarah Lewis, Mika Brees and Pfeifer. Meanwhile, the men’s 4x8 included J.P Reynolds, Thomas Taylor, Christian Van Cleave and McAllister.
An All-American in 2018, Jacob Cornelio will also be headed back to the national championships. He registered a weight throw of 61’ 10 ½” and placed second in the event. In the shot put, Liam Hennessy just missed a ‘B’ standard.
Additional ‘B’ marks turned in on Saturday came from Nathan Matters (600 meters), Ben Pratt (high jump) and Johanna Ragland (weight throw). Standout sophomore Cody Williams posted a ‘B’ time in the 60 meter hurdles while taking first place in his section of the preliminaries at the Graduate Classic on Friday. Adrianna Sims was not far off in the triple jump.
Due to the overnight snowstorm, the field was significantly smaller than first anticipated. Roughly 10 schools decided not to compete.
The Bulldogs now get set to play the role of meet host for the first time in 2019. The Polar Dog Invite will take place next Saturday (Jan. 19) inside the Fieldhouse. For a preliminary meet schedule, click HERE.