Preview: 2014 outdoor track and field

By on Mar. 26, 2014 in Track & Field

Preview: 2014 outdoor track and field

By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant

At a glance:
Head coach: Kregg Einspahr (22nd year)
2013 men’s outdoor GPAC finish: 2nd
2013 women’s outdoor GPAC finish: 2nd
2013 men’s outdoor national finish: 42nd
2013 women’s outdoor national finish: 20th
2013 men’s outdoor All-Americans (5): Cody Boellstorff (hammer throw), John Cartier (4x400 meter relay), Alex Heiden (4x400 meter relay), Benjamin Hinckfoot (400 meter hurdles, 110 meter hurdles, 4x400 meter relay), Jaap Van Gaalen (4x400 meter relay)
2013 women’s outdoor All-Americans (4): Jamie Crouse (hammer throw), Elizabeth King (javelin), Sarah Kortze (10,000 meter run), Lydia Pomerenke (heptathlon)

It’s a new season, with new events and even a different track. However, there is still work to be done and goals to be accomplished as the expectations for the first-time GPAC champions continue to rise. With the indoor season officially behind, it’s time to refocus on the task at hand and all eyes have turned to Gulf Shores, Alabama, the sight of this year’s outdoor national championships.   

For starters, the men’s track program boasts seven indoor season All-Americans and GPAC indoor coach of the year Kregg Einspahr.

With so many strong athletes competing at a high level and a championship swagger carrying into the outdoor season, Einspahr is hopeful for what his team can accomplish this spring.

“Certainly we have some momentum coming off a very good indoor season,” Einspahr said. “This gives us confidence that competing for the Great Plains Conference championship is certainly a realistic goal. While there are some different events, we should be able to score well in each of these outdoor events. Competitively we would like to compete for the GPAC conference championship and finish among the top 15 teams at the NAIA Outdoor Championships.”

After placing 18th in the steeplechase last season, senior Hayden Hohnholt is ready for another go at what will be his final season in the Bulldog uniform. Another conference championship is certainly something he’d like to take with him, however.

“I think everyone on the team has one goal, the same goal we had for indoor, to perform at an ability that will get us to the conference championship,” Hohnholt said. “I think that’s our goal this year for outdoor track too. Anything short, we would probably be disappointed. Competing for and giving it all we have at our outdoor conference championship to get that conference title again for outdoor would be a huge accomplishment.”

The men will return numerous individuals with experience in not only the recent indoor national championships, but the outdoor championships a season ago as well. Senior Ben Hinckfoot placed as an All-American in both the 110 meter hurdles and the 400 meter hurdles, finishing in eighth and seventh place, respectively, last season.

Senior Carson Farr finished just one spot shy of All-American status in the pole vault, taking ninth place while sophomores Joel Ripke and Cody Boelstorff finished in 14th and eighth place in the discus and hammer throw. The scorching 4x400 meter relay team of seniors John Cartier, Jonathon Becker, Alex Heiden and freshman CJ Muller will look to improve on their eighth place finish from a season ago.

Winning another conference title certainly won’t be easy, and now that the Bulldogs have one, they’ll have to outperform the 10 other schools that are gunning for the target on their backs. So just exactly what will it take to pull off just the second track and field championship in school history?

“Same thing it took for indoor,” Hohnholt said. “Hard work, coming to practice every day committed to what we’re doing. You could tell during indoor that we had a lot of people focused on what we were doing, working hard, doing well in workouts, hitting the weight room when necessary, and putting in the work you need to so you can be the best you can be at your event and if each one of us do that as an individual, it’ll come together as a whole team in the end.”

The women have quite a bit going their way as well.

Coming off an impressive 11th place finish at the indoor track and field championships, the women will bring back eight indoor All-Americans and six All-American’s from last year’s outdoor team.

Sophomore Kim Wood will gear up for another go after an impressive indoor season in which she qualified for six events at the national meet. Multi-event standouts Lydia Pomerenke and Sara Simmons will look to defend their All-American status after finishing fourth and seventh a year ago. The women will get a significant amount of help from sophomore throwers Stephanie Coley (10th at national meet in the shout put) and Elizabeth King (fourth at national meet in the Javelin throw).

Senior Jamie Crouse will also heavily contribute as an All-American in the hammer throw with her final placing of fourth. The women’s 4x800 meter squad placed ninth a year ago, but will return three of their four runners in senior Jenean Williams, junior Erika Schroeder and Wood. Freshman Marti Vlasin, who had a very strong indoor season, will complete the quartet.

With a loaded roster ready to rumble, Williams commented on the overall goals of the team, and what it will take.

“I think our main goal is always to come out with a win at conference and have everyone do their best to compete and strive to really meet our full potential come the conference meet,” Williams said.

“Everyone needs to stay healthy. We have a lot of girls who are coming off injuries from the indoor season,” Williams said. “They need to get back going where they were before they got injured. Everyone needs to work together and push each other all season. Really, we want to get the 4x800 meter relay going again and take the hype that we had from the indoor season and strive to take that and push it even further than we did.”

Einspahr explained that as the teams gear up for another run at a conference championship, there are many things that will be critical for the Bulldogs’ success.

“Avoiding injury is probably one of the biggest factors,” Einspahr said. “Being healthy going into the end of the season is very important to be able to score well in all the events. We will need to analyze the middle distance and distance events to see where our personnel will fit to maximize their scoring potential at the GPAC conference championship. Scoring well in the hammer, discus, javelin and 400 intermediate hurdles will be very important for us.”

The outdoor season will begin this weekend, as the Bulldogs will travel to Wayne, Neb. to compete in the Wildcat Classic. Field and multi events begin on Friday with running and jumping following on Saturday.