HASTINGS, Neb. – If you’ve paid any attention to Concordia University track and field, you know about the throwers. There are only so many superlatives to describe the group that again dominated on day one of the GPAC outdoor championships on Friday. Liz King won two events and Josh Slechta broke a conference meet record as part of a big performance from Bulldog long tossers. Freshman McKenzie Gravo also repeated her title in the pole vault.
Heading into Saturday, 24th-year head coach Kregg Einspahr’s No. 2 nationally-ranked squads both sit right near the top. The women have piled up 73 points to second-place Doane’s 28. Meanwhile, the men are second with 46 points, two fewer than Doane. Only five events have been scored on both sides at the 2016 event hosted by Hastings College.
“It was a great start to the weekend,” said Ed McLaughlin, the 2016 NAIA National Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year. “We did what we had to do and a little bit more in a couple of spots. I’m just really happy, especially the way it happened. Liz King winning her fourth GPAC javelin title is a huge deal. Going one through five in the women’s hammer was not expected and Josh breaking the meet record was awesome.”
King, a senior from Billings, Mont., completed a perfect GPAC career in the javelin by winning the event at the conference meet for the fourth-straight year. Her mark of 150’ 10” outdistanced teammate and runner up Katricia Svoboda (national qualifying mark of 135’ 3”) by more than 15 feet. King was only getting started. She then threw the hammer for a winning measurement of 178 feet, allowing her to capture back-to-back titles in the event.
The women mounted 33 points in the hammer throw alone as they claimed each of the top-five placements (King, Kattie Cleveland-2nd, Stephanie Coley-3rd, Kali Robb-4th, Sydney Meyer-5th). The men were similarly dominant in the hammer with Slechta’s meet record mark of 208’ 4” leading the way. Concordia went 1-2-4-6-7-8 in the event with Zach Lurz (190’ 4”) finishing as the runner up. Slechta also turned in a seventh-place finish in the javelin (173’ 9”).
Gravo’s title in the pole vault gives Concordia five-straight GPAC champions in the event. Gravo, who jumped 12' 1 ½” on Friday, also won the indoor championship a year after program record holder Cassie Starks swept 2015 titles. The Bulldogs picked up another six points in the event with freshman Allison Brooks’ third-place claim. On the men’s side, Lucas Wiechman (third), Tyrell Reichert (seventh) and Ryan Gross (eighth) chipped in a combined nine points in the pole vault.
Wiechman also broke loose in the 110 meter hurdles with an automatic national qualifying time of 14.69, good for first in the preliminaries. In addition, Wiechman tops the field of 14 decathletes with 3,490 points with five events in the books. The native of Pilger, Neb., won the 100 meter dash in 11.03 as part of the decathlon.
Elsewhere on the track, Concordia’s 4x800 meter relays placed fourth (men) and fifth (women), respectively. Senior Jordan Potrzeba was the lone Bulldog to earn all-conference placement in the 10,000 meter run. He checked in eighth with a time of 34:56.42.
The second and final day of the GPAC championships picks up at 9 a.m. with the conclusion of the multi events on Saturday. The title chase will heat up around mid-day with field events starting at 12 p.m. and running events getting underway at 12:30 p.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled to take place at roughly 6 p.m. View the event schedule HERE.
The men’s race projects to be a close battle between Concordia and Doane. The Bulldogs have won the last two outdoor conference titles.
“I think we’re looking pretty good to make a run at the title,” McLaughlin said. “Everything’s got to go the right way tomorrow. There are a lot of kids that have to step up and perform. It’s going to be a dog fight for the men.”
2016 GPAC outdoor champions