GPAC preview: Bulldogs eye top-of-conference finishes

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 15, 2017 in Track & Field


SEWARD, Neb. – GPAC week is here for Concordia University’s nationally-ranked track and field programs (fourth on the men’s side; ninth on the women’s side). The 2017 GPAC Indoor Track and Field Championships will be held Friday and Saturday at the Recreation Center in Sioux Center, Iowa. Dordt will serve as the host of this year’s event.

At the 2016 conference indoor meet that took place inside the Devaney Center in Lincoln, the Bulldogs placed second on the women’s side and third on the men’s side. A program with impressive top-of-the-line athletes, Concordia has proved to be an even better nationals team in recent seasons. At the 2016 indoor championships, the Bulldogs recorded two top-five team finishes.

This will be Matt Beisel’s first conference meet since taking over as head coach. After a strong showing at last week’s Concordia Indoor Invitational, Beisel believes his teams are primed to be at their best this weekend.

“We have a shot at winning on the men’s side and I think our girls can finish top three,” Beisel said at Tuesday’s Bulldog Athletic Association gathering. “We’re going to put everything into it. There’s going to be a lot of focus on getting points in every possible event and having kids that might be sitting 11th or 12th in their event be more than their rankings. All of our kids are ready for breakthrough performances. That’s what we’re shooting for and pushing for.”

The Concordia men enter the meet with GPAC leading marks in six events. The women top the conference in three events. Senior Lucas Wiechman has been a star all indoor season for the Bulldogs. Again named a GPAC athlete of the week on Wednesday (Feb. 15), the native of Pilger, Neb., paces the GPAC in both the 60 meter hurdles and the heptathlon. He’s also No. 2 in the pole vault.

Additionally, assistant coach Ed McLaughlin will roll out strong contenders for conference championships in each of the throwing events. Named the 2016 NAIA Midwest National Field Athlete of the Year for indoor, Zach Lurz possesses a total of three conference titles and three shot put national championships in his career. Teammate Cody Boellstorff is the current national leader and defending conference and national champion in the weight throw. On the women’s side, senior Kali Robb tops all NAIA competitors in the weight throw. She won the 2016 GPAC indoor weight throw title. Freshman Addie Shaw ranks second in the GPAC and nationally in the shot put.

Pole vault coach Jason Berry is hoping the program can extend its run of five-straight GPAC titles in the women’s vault. Recent Concordia women’s pole vault champions include McKenzie Gravo (2016 indoor/outdoor), Cassie Starks (2015 indoor/outdoor) and Shelby (2014 outdoor). Sophomore Allie Brooks, the school record holder, is a heavy conference favorite going into this weekend. Her mark of 12’ 10 ¾” leads the GPAC by more than a foot. She’s also tied atop the conference in the high jump (5’ 7”).

The Concordia men are hoping to hoist the GPAC championship trophy for the first time since the 2015 outdoor season when they also went on to win the NAIA national championship. Between 2014 and 2015, the Bulldog men won three of four GPAC titles, loosening Doane’s stranglehold. The last Concordia women’s GPAC title occurred in 2012 at the outdoor meet. During the GPAC era, the Bulldog track and field programs have also produced a combined 23 conference runner-up finishes.

Now graduated, Kim Wood put forth one of the greatest conference meet performances ever by a Bulldog at the 2016 GPAC indoor championships when she won four conference titles on the track. In three of those races, she broke GPAC meet records while winning the GPAC Indoor Track and Field Outstanding Athlete of the Year honor.

Standout runner CJ Muller will have the opportunity to defend his GPAC title in the 600 meter run. He’s also part of a 4x400 meter relay that sports the top time in the conference. The 4x4 is solidified by three Bulldogs who rank in the top nine of the GPAC in the 400 meters: Muller (second), Jake Rodgers (fourth) and Wiechman (ninth). The other member of that group, Nathan Matters, possesses the conference’s fourth-best time in the 600.

Beisel is ready for meet day to arrive. “I’m excited about it. I’m starting to get a little edgy,” Beisel said. “I know I’m not going to sleep too well going into it, but it’s part of the fun of it.”

According to the USTFCCCA rankings released on Wednesday (Feb. 15), the GPAC contains a total of 11 top 25 squads – six on the men’s side and five on the women’s side. The USTFCCA also ranks the GPAC as the second best NAIA track and field conference for both men and women.

Bulldogs leading 2017 GPAC lists
Men’s 4x400 meter relay
Cody Boellstorff – weight throw
Allie Brooks – pole vault; high jump
Scott Johnson – long jump
CJ Muller – 600 meters
Kali Robb – weight throw
Lucas Wiechman – 60 meter hurdles; heptathlon

View complete GPAC leaderboard

2016 Concordia GPAC indoor champions
Cody Boellstorff (weight throw)
Stephanie Coley (shot put)
McKenzie Gravo (pole vault)
Zach Lurz (shot put)
CJ Muller (600 meters)
Kali Robb (weight throw)
Kim Wood (600 meters; 800 meters; 1,000 meters; one mile)

Concordia all-time conference titles
MEN – indoor: 2014 | outdoor: 2014, 2015
WOMEN – indoor: 2010 | outdoor: 1998, 2010, 2012

Concordia all-time conference runner-up finishes
MEN – indoor: 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 | outdoor: 2002, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016
WOMEN – indoor: 2003, 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016 | outdoor: 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Nationally-ranked GPAC teams

*According to USTFCCCA
2 – Doane
4 – Concordia
10 – Dordt
14 – Northwestern
15 – Midland
23 – Hastings
4 – Doane
7 – Hasings
9 – Concordia
11 – Northwestern
14 – Dordt