GULF SHORES, Ala. – Senior Liz King went out in style while making her final appearance as a Bulldog on Thursday as part of day one of the 2016 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. King won a national title in the hammer throw and finished as the runner up in the javelin in a huge final collegiate effort. King was one of nine Bulldogs to lock up All-America awards during Thursday’s action.
The large stable of star throwers allowed both Concordia squads to come away from Thursday as the team national leaders in the NAIA. The Bulldog men, the defending outdoor national champs, have totaled 22 points. Meanwhile, the women have racked up a total of 32 points. Head coach Kregg Einspahr’s squads entered the weekend ranked second (women) and third (men) nationally according to computer ratings released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Always a crowd favorite, King obliged the shouts of ‘c’mon, King’ by whirling the hammer throw a first-place and season best distance of 188’ ¼” in holding off the runner up from Siena Heights (Mich.) and a host of teammates in the event. It’s an event she actually wanted to give up at one point.
“I still don’t like it. Don’t mistake me, I still just don’t like it,” King joked afterwards. “All the credit goes to (throws coach) Ed (McLaughlin). I’m not the biggest girl. I’m not the tallest. I’m not the widest. I’m not the heaviest. I had to focus on technique. Technique is all coach.”
King popped off another big throw of 161’ 6 ½” in the javelin and took an early lead in her bid for a second national title in a single day. However, Seri Geisler of Valley City State (N.D.) unleashed a throw of 168’ 6 ¾” and King had to settle for second place as part of a stellar day. She became the 50th national titlist in program history and the first female thrower to record multiple national championships.
No NAIA program in the country has a deeper group of hammer throwers than Concordia, which went 1-4-5-6 on the women’s side and 2-3-4-6 on the men’s side. Women’s throwers to join King with All-America honors in the hammer were Stephanie Coley (fourth), Kali Robb (fifth) and Kattie Cleveland (sixth). Coley, a senior from Gering, Neb., now owns nine career All-America plaques.
Junior Zach Lurz, the performer of the meet at the 2015 outdoor national championships, can do one better. He owns 10 career All-America honors after finishing fourth in the hammer. Senior Josh Slechta placed second, Jose Rojas third and Philip Kreutzer sixth in the hammer. Kreutzer was the biggest surprise for the Bulldogs. His mark of 186’ 8” put him well out in front of his previous personal best.
“It’s nice to get it out there. I knew I had it in me all year long,” Kreutzer said. “At the end of last year I started hitting marks close to 180. It feels good.”
A national qualifier in three different events, junior Lucas Wiechman has put himself in great position in the decathlon heading into day two. He has piled up 3,476 points and sits in third place halfway through the decathlon. A five-time All-American, Wiechman will also take the track on Friday for the 110 meter hurdles trials at 1:45 p.m.
In the pole vault, McKenzie Gravo wrapped up a tremendous freshman season with her second All-America claim in 2016. She also swept indoor and outdoor GPAC titles. On Thursday she placed seventh by clearing 12’ 1 ½” – equaling her outdoor season best. Fellow freshman Allie Brooks set a new personal standard of 11’ 10” and placed 11th in what is only a start to a promising career.
On the track, senior Kim Wood (1,500 meters) and junior CJ Muller (200 meters) came up short of times worthy of qualifying for the finals of their respective events. Both athletes will be back on the track on Friday. Wood will run the trials of the 800 meters and Muller will compete in the 200 meters.
Senior Adam Aschenbrenner competed in the hammer throw on Thursday and threw 164’ 10 ½” in his first career national championship appearance. Three other Bulldogs will make their championships debut this weekend: Jacob Kettner (triple jump), Tyrell Reichert (pole vault) and Jan Steinbrueck (discus).
Day two at the 2016 outdoor national championships resumes at 10 a.m. on Friday when the decathlon picks up. Ten Bulldog athletes are scheduled to be in action throughout the day (see below).
2016 Concordia outdoor All-Americans
Friday (May 27) schedule
10 a.m. – Men’s Decathlon
1 p.m. – Women’s Shot Put
(Coley, Liermann, Robb)
2 p.m. – Women’s 800m trials
3:50 p.m. – Men’s 400m trials
5 p.m. – Men’s Discus
(Barnes, Lurz, Rojas, Slechta)