SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University track and field programs enter this weekend’s GPAC indoor championships with 12 combined first or second-place conference team finishes since 2012. Twenty-fourth year head coach Kregg Einspahr’s program has created an expectation of top-of-the-GPAC placements. The Bulldog men have won three of the last four conference track and field titles.
Led by an army of standout individuals, Concordia carries top-five national rankings (No. 5 women; No. 5 men) into the conference meet. The two-day event will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday from Fuhrer Field House at Doane. The second day picks up with multi events at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Most of Saturday’s action will take place at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. View the complete meet schedule HERE.
“From top to bottom the conference is stronger than it ever has been,” Einspahr said. “We have one of the best teams we’ve ever had and there are more teams taking away a lot more points, especially in the middle distances. We’re fortunate that we have a well-balanced team that can score some good points in the field events. Years ago we probably were scoring most of our points on the track. It’s been quite a turnaround for us.”
Concordia returns a pair of individuals – Zach Lurz and Kim Wood – who won GPAC titles at last year’s indoor championships. The question for the record-breaking Wood: how many races can she handle? She’s the current conference leader in four different events (see list below) in which she also owns school records. No doubt she’ll be busy on Saturday when she tries to duplicate her impressive work from 2015 when she captured three indoor conference championships. She’s running even better now.
“Kim is training at a level where she can recover quickly and come back for another race,” Einspahr said. “There’s a little more time in the schedule between some of her races that she’ll run because of the hydraulic banking at the Devaney Center that has to go up and go down. We have a pretty good history here of taking some of our middle distance and distance runners that have progressed into their senior years and having success running doubles and triples.”
Lurz and Concordia’s stable of throwers were a huge reason why Concordia hung a national title banner at last year’s outdoor national championships. Lurz is the current GPAC and NAIA leader in the shot put. Bulldog long tossers also lead the nation in the men’s weight throw (Cody Boellstorff) and women’s shot put (Stephanie Coley). The finals of the GPAC championships figure to be crowded with Bulldogs. Among GPAC competition, Concordia athletes own three of the top four men’s shot put marks, each of the top three women’s shot put measurements, the top two men’s weight throw spots and four of the top six women’s weight throw positions.
Other areas of strength can be found in the pole vault (three of top five women’s vaulters, three of the top seven men’s vaulters) with the likes of freshman McKenzie Gravo and junior Lucas Wiechman and in the 4x400 meter relays (top three times on both sides). On the track, junior CJ Muller expects a big day. He’s the GPAC leader in the 600 meters while also ranking second in the 400 meters and fourth in the 200 meters among conference competition. On the women’s side, sophomore Emily Sievert is the only GPAC runner with an automatic national qualifying mark in the 5,000 meter race.
The competition is always stiff within a conference that is arguably the best among small college track and field leagues. Based on the USTFCCCA’s computer rankings, the GPAC rates as the second best track and field conference in the NAIA in 2016 while boasting six top-25 men’s squads and five nationally-ranked women’s teams (see list below).
“We would like to be in the top two (at the conference meet),” Einspahr said. “I’d like to think that on a consistent basis we can be in the top three at the conference championship. We’ll see how things shake out.”
Bulldogs leading GPAC
Cody Boellstorff – weight throw (68’ 9 ¼”)
Stephanie Coley – shot put (47’ 7 ¾”)
Zach Lurz – shot put (59’ 6 ¼”)
CJ Muller – 600 meters (1:20.71)
Emily Sievert – 5,000 meters (18:07.90)
Kim Wood – 600 meters (1:33.15); 800 meters (2:11.03); 1,000 meters (2:55.95), mile (4:52.21)
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
WOMEN – indoor: 2003, 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015 | outdoor: 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015
Nationally-ranked GPAC teams
*According to USTFCCCA
2 – Doane
5 – Concordia
10 – Briar Cliff
13 – Northwestern
19 – Dordt
21 – Hastings
2 – Doane
5 – Concordia
14 – Dordt
17 – Hastings
20 – Northwestern