SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University men’s track and field squad successfully unseated Doane at the top of the conference at the GPAC indoor meet in late February. Now the Bulldogs are the favorite to do the same thing this weekend at the GPAC outdoor track and field championships. The meet will be hosted at Doane’s Al Papik Field/Lauritsen Outdoor Track on Friday and Saturday.
According to the NAIA ratings released Wednesday by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association, head coach Kregg Einspahr’s men are ranked No. 5 in the NAIA while the women are ranked seventh.
“Doane has won the men’s GPAC outdoor conference championship for the last six years in a row while our men were runner-up in three of the past five years,” Einspahr said. “As the defending champions and having the conference meet on their own track, it will be a real challenge to try and compete with them for the conference team title. However, I think we have a good chance to challenge them. We will need to stay focused and disciplined.”
Other GPAC teams included in the ratings on the men’s side include Doane (10), Hastings (18) and Nebraska Wesleyan (25). Additional nationally-ranked teams on the women’s side are Doane (4) and Hastings (10).
Concordia’s men currently lead the conference in eight events: 400 meter dash (John Cartier), 400 meter hurdles (Ben Hinckfoot), 4x100 meter relay, 4x400 meter relay, pole vault (Carson Farr), shot put (Zach Lurz), discus (Lurz) and hammer throw (Cody Boellstorff).
The Bulldogs have loads of scoring potential in the 200 meters (four of the top seven in the GPAC), in the hurdles (two of the top three 110H, top four 400H), in the throws (four of the top eight shot put, four of top five hammer throw) and in the decathlon (three of top five).
“I would say that our young men’s decathletes have a chance to score very well in addition to our veteran intermediate hurdlers like Benjamin Hinckfoot, Jonathon Becker, Trevor Bresson and Tai Pleasant,” Einspahr said. “Both groups have been training and competing very well of late. John Cartier is healthy and is always a great competitor in big meets.”
The Concordia women enter the championships with conference leaders in three events: 1,500 meter run (Kim Wood), pole vault (Shelby Yelden) and javelin (Elizabeth King).
Runner up to Doane at the indoor meet, the balanced Bulldogs have strength in numbers in the pole vault (three of top eight), hammer (four of top eight) and heptathlon (five of top nine).
“Kim Wood has looked very good in practice in the middle distances,” Einspahr said. “I think our women’s throwers, especially Liz King, Stephanie Coley and Jamie Crouse are ready to go.”
While Concordia’s eight No. 1 ranking GPAC men’s marks lead the conference, Hastings owns the most top marks on the women’s side with six, just in front of Doane’s five and Dordt’s four. On the men’s side, Doane, Morningside and Northwestern top the conference in four events.
An interesting storyline will center upon how big of a workload Doane decides to give star athlete Kale Wolken, who ranks in the top eight of the GPAC in seven different events. He leads the conference in the long jump, javelin and decathlon. On the women’s side, the Tigers are powerful across almost all events and a clear favorite to take another title.
The 2014 GPAC outdoor track and field championships officially get started at 1 p.m. on Friday with the 100 meter hurdles as part of the women’s heptathlon. Field events begin at 2 p.m. and running events commence at 5 p.m.
On the season, Concordia has totaled 19 ‘A’ national qualifying marks and 15 ‘B’ national qualifying marks (see below). Of the 22 individual Bulldogs with either A or B marks, Coley, Crouse, Trey Farmer, Lurz, Hinckfoot, King and Wood own more than one national qualifying figure. Of the 34 total A or B marks, 23 have come in field events (19 by throwers, three by pole vaulters and one in the triple jump).