SEWARD, Neb. – One week out from the GPAC indoor championships, the Concordia University track and field programs moved closer to the across-the-board performances they hope to have in the season’s most significant meets. While hosting for the third and final time this indoor campaign, the Bulldogs got big efforts from several of their most high profile performers and added an automatic national qualifying mark from senior Scott Johnson at Saturday’s (Feb. 10) Concordia Indoor Invitational.
With one meet left prior to the indoor national championships, head coach Matt Beisel’s squads have accumulated 11 automatic national qualifying marks. Among the highlights, senior Ben Hulett just missed the ‘A’ standard in the 60-meter hurdles in another career best performance.
“You’re not going to have perfection at any meet, but I’d definitely say it was a huge improvement in a lot of different events from last week (at the Fred Beile Classic),” Beisel said. “Some people moved up the conference rankings. We have kids that are ready to go to GPAC and do some damage. I’m excited to see what can happen.”
A 2017 indoor national qualifier in the long jump, Johnson will make his way to nationals this March in the triple jump. The Kansas City, Kan., native busted loose with a personal best of 46’ 7 ½” in the triple jump, placing him third in the meet. Johnson also turned in a runner-up finish in the long jump with a mark of 22’ 7 ¼.” With the indoor season winding down, now was the time for Johnson to make his move.
“It’s good to get that monkey off your back. That’s been the goal all season to get that ‘A’ standard,” Johnson said. “It’s good to say that you’re for sure going and not have to worry about it going into conference. You can just be relaxed and put on a good jump next week.”
Based on the national leaderboard entering the weekend, junior Samantha Liermann is now one of only three female shot put tossers in the NAIA to hit 48 feet. A consistent performer each week, Liermann came within an inch of the school indoor shot put record with her winning mark of 48’ ¾.” She also again hit the ‘A’ standard in the weight throw.
The defending outdoor shot put national champ, Liermann will vie for a GPAC title next week.
“Just trying to stay healthy is my biggest thing right now,” Liermann said. “I’ve been dealing with some issues with my feet. Also I’m trying to keep consistency with my form and fix what needs to be fixed.”
Adrianna Shaw also improved her mark in the shot put, an event that saw four Bulldogs hit the ‘A’ standard (Jazzy Eickhoff and Johanna Ragland included). The women’s shot put has been the team’s biggest area of strength all indoor season.
A two-time GPAC champion, McKenzie Gravo will enter next week’s conference championships as a favorite. She cleared a personal best of 12’ 6 ¼” and gave solid attempts at a school record height while winning Saturday’s competition. Gravo came into the made listed inside the top three nationally in the pole vault.
Hulett could be primed to appear inside the top 10 on the national list in the 60 hurdles after shaving 0.04 off his previous personal best. He finished in 8.30 in the prelims and then 8.28 in the finals, good for third place in the field.
Also on the track, Blake Becher (7.01 in 60 meters), Josiah McAllister (4:25.37 in mile) and Thomas Taylor (1:57.63 in 800 meters) all placed second in their respective events. On the women’s side of the jumps, both Leah Larson (triple) and Kara Stark (high) continue to try to chase down national qualifying marks that have narrowly eluded them to this point in the season. Additionally, Beisel made special mention of freshman Tucker Platt, who has improved tremendously in the pole vault. He jumped 14’ 11” at the Concordia Invite.
Any conversation about the men’s throws group starts with sophomore Jacob Cornelio. On Saturday, he bumped up his personal best in the weight throw by more than three feet, checking in at 59’ 7 ½.” He finished fourth at the Concordia Invite while giving himself a shot of moving into the top 10 of the NAIA.
The Bulldogs will now focus their attention on next week’s GPAC Championships (Feb. 16-17) hosted by Doane. At last year’s indoor conference meet, Concordia finished second on the men’s side and fourth on the women’s side. The most recent GPAC championship for the program came from the men during the 2015 outdoor season.