SEWARD, Neb. – It’s GPAC week for the top 10 nationally-ranked Concordia University track and field squads. After indoor conference placements of second (men) and fourth (women), the Bulldogs have their sights set on moving up the ladder. Both Bulldog teams were runner-up finishers at the 2016 outdoor championships hosted by Hastings.
In case anyone hadn’t noticed, outdoor is kind of Concordia’s thing. The men’s program claimed 2014 and 2015 GPAC outdoor championships and went on to win the national title in 2015. Meanwhile, the women took the NAIA championship banner a year ago in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Head coach Matt Beisel’s teams have the firepower to again accomplish special things this May. Concordia’s returning GPAC champions from the 2016 conference outdoor meet are McKenzie Gravo (pole vault), Kali Robb (shot put) and Lucas Wiechman (decathlon and 110 meter hurdles). Entering the meet, the Bulldogs are leading the GPAC in total of 10 events (men and women combined).
In the women’s pole vault, assistant coach Jason Berry’s athletes have been responsible for six GPAC titles in a row. Allie Brooks became the latest winner. Named a conference athlete of the week on Wednesday, Brooks continues to break her own school records. Her biggest competition for another title appears to be Gravo, who swept 2016 GPAC pole vault championships. Brooks, Gravo and Tristen Mosier are ranked first, second and fourth, respectively, on the conference leaderboard.
As usual, a lot of points will be expected to come from the throws. That group is headed by GPAC leaders Cody Boellstorff (hammer), Zach Lurz (discus) and Kali Robb (hammer, shot put). Boellstorff is a heavy favorite to claim another title in the hammer and Lurz has a way of rising to the occasion when the stakes are the highest. On paper, the Bulldogs look particularly dominant in the women’s shot put (three of top five), men’s hammer (three of top five), women’s hammer (four of top five) and women’s javelin (three of top five).
Concordia’s most well-rounded athlete is Wiechman an indoor national champion in the heptathlon. Wiechman won indoor awards for most outstanding athlete of the meet at both the conference and national championships and could make a push for similar honors in outdoor. He possesses GPAC best marks in four different events, including the decathlon.
A sneaky good event for the Bulldogs on the men’s side is the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Among GPAC competitors, Taylor Mueller and Kohlton Gabehart rank second and third, respectively. In the hurdles, Ben Hulett teams with Wiechman on a solid 1-2 punch. Elsewhere on the track, senior CJ Muller is in the process of polishing off his stellar career. Not only does he top the GPAC in the 800 meters, he ranks third in the 400 meters and is a key part of the 4x400 meter relay that is currently No. 2 in the GPAC.
The GPAC championships stand out as one of the premier meets in all of the NAIA. According to the USTFCCCA NAIA national ratings that were released on Wednesday, the GPAC ranks as the top NAIA track and field conference for men and women. Both sides were represented by four top 25 teams.
The USTFCCCA also breaks down the national landscape by ranking the best schools for each of the event groups. The USTFCCCA credits Concordia as the nation’s best in the men’s discus, men’s hammer, women’s pole vault, women’s discus, women’s hammer and women’s javelin.
The 2017 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships will again be held in Gulf Shores, Ala. They will run May 25-27 at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium. As of this moment, Concordia’s national qualifying list includes 28 automatic marks. That number does not include the decathlon, an event in which Wiechman ranks No. 4 nationally. Based on the ratings, Lurz is the most well rounded thrower in the nation. He is the national runner up in three events: discus, hammer and shot put. No. 1 marks are held by Boellstorff in the hammer and Robb in the hammer. Robb is also No. 2 in the shot put while Tricia Svoboda is second in the discus. Brooks is sitting second in the pole vault.
Bulldogs leading 2017 GPAC lists
Cody Boellstorff (hammer)
Allie Brooks (pole vault)
Zach Lurz (discus)
CJ Muller (800 meters)
Kali Robb (hammer, shot put)
Lucas Wiechman (110 meter hurdles, 400 meter hurdles, decathlon, pole vault)
2016 Concordia GPAC outdoor champions
McKenzie Gravo (pole vault)
Jacob Kettner (triple jump)
Liz King (hammer, javelin)
Kali Robb (shot put)
Josh Slechta (discus, hammer)
Lucas Wiechman (decathlon, 110 meter hurdles)
Kim Wood (800 meters, 1500 meters)
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, 2017 | 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
5 – Doane
6 – Concordia
20 – Midland
23 – Dordt
3 – Concordia
5 – Hastings
6 – Doane
22 – Northwestern