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SEASON PREVIEW: 2018 outdoor track and field

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 20, 2018 in Track & Field

Head coach: Matt Beisel (2nd year)
2018 indoor finishes: T-4th GPAC; T-42nd NAIA
2017 indoor finishes: 2nd GPAC; 2nd NAIA
2017 outdoor finishes: 2nd GPAC; 5th NAIA
2018 indoor All-Americans: Jacob Cornelio (weight throw); Cody Williams (heptathlon).
2017 All-Americans returning: Nathan Matters (4x400m relay); Jake Rodgers (4x400m relay).
2017 All-Americans lost: Cody Boellstorff (*weight throw, *hammer, discus); Philip Kreutzer (hammer); Zach Lurz (*shot put-2, weight throw, hammer, discus); CJ Muller (600 meters, 4x400m relay); Lucas Wiechman (*heptathlon, *pole vault, 60 meter hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4x400m relay).
*National champion 

Head coach: Matt Beisel (2nd year)
2018 indoor finishes: 5th GPAC; 9th NAIA
2017 indoor finishes: 4th GPAC; 7th NAIA
2017 outdoor finishes: 3rd GPAC; 6th NAIA
2018 indoor All-Americans: Samantha Liermann (*shot put, weight throw); Johanna Ragland (shot put); Adrianna Shaw (shot put).
2017 All-Americans returning: Allie Brooks (pole vault); McKenzie Gravo (pole vault); Samantha Liermann (*shot put-2); Adrianna Shaw (shot put); Bethany Shaw (discus).
2017 All-Americans lost: Sydney Meyer (weight throw, hammer); Kali Robb (weight throw, shot put, hammer); Tricia Svoboda (javelin, discus).
*National champion

Three weeks removed from the 2018 NAIA indoor national championships, the Concordia University track and field teams are on the cusp of opening up the outdoor season. In recent years, the additional throwing events at outdoor meets have favored the Bulldogs, who captured national championship banners at the 2015 (men) and 2016 (women) NAIA outdoor national events.

In his second season leading Concordia track and field, head coach Matt Beisel is looking for the next wave of stars to emerge in order to maintain the program’s GPAC and national prestige. Seven of the Bulldogs’ 17 indoor national qualifiers this March were new to the national stage.

“We had a lot of great performances both at conference and indoor nationals,” Beisel said. “We did have some disappointments. With some of the those kids, we’re going to be helping them figure out how to get better. On the other hand, we had a lot of spectacular performances. Across the board, we had good things happen. The fact that we’re redshirting a lot of kids that are going to be heavy hitters provides a good outlook for next year but outdoor this season will be huge for our throwers. The added events are huge scoring events for us on both the men’s and women’s sides.”

The program’s unquestioned MVP of the indoor season was Samantha Liermann, who made another big splash by earning the second shot put national title of her career. Her toss at the national championships broke the school record. That effort capped off a remarkable indoor season for Liermann, who excelled at a consistently elite level from meet to meet. She also won the GPAC title in the shot put.

Liermann and company placed ninth nationally at the indoor national championships and have the potential to place higher this coming May. The strong stable of throwers in the shot put includes indoor All-Americans Johanna Ragland and Adrianna Shaw. At least year’s outdoor national meet, returners McKenzie Gravo (pole vault) and Bethany Shaw (discus) also took home All-America recognition. In Gravo’s case, she will be redshirting in order to preserve eligibility for a fifth year of college.

On the men’s side, Jacob Cornelio (weight throw) and Cody Williams (heptathlon) are coming off indoor All-America performances and are leaders of a group of up-and-comers that includes multi-event athlete Blake Becher. Meanwhile, senior Scott Johnson, indoor GPAC titlist in the triple jump, will take one last aim at an All-America plaque.

The team’s 42nd-place indoor national finish was a departure from an extended run of top-five NAIA finishes. Concordia is working on developing the next round of point producing stars. Williams is at the top of that list.

“Cody is a person who realizes he’s not even close to his potential,” Beisel said. “He’s very excited coming off indoor season and his motivation has been awesome. He’s a guy that could potentially make it to nationals in the pole vault, the high jump and the decathlon. We try to balance that with his age and knowing that it’s a lot of stuff for a freshman to do at one meet. Who knows what can happen at outdoor, but we just want to keep him healthy and continue to train him at all of the events.”

While the women’s shot put will be a strength again for outdoor, so too will be the women’s discus, at least on paper. Four returners qualified for last season’s outdoor national championships in the event: Adrianna Shaw, Bethany Shaw, Carley Skopera and Jan Steinbrueck (Jacy Embray will not compete due to injury). Current teammates who reached the 2017 NAIA outdoor nationals in individual events include Cornelio (hammer and discus), Ben Hulett (110 hurdles) and Tyrell Reichert (pole vault) on the men’s side and Taylor Grove (half marathon), Liermann (shot put and hammer) and Tristen Mosier (pole vault) on the women’s side.

“We should definitely place higher at conference,” Beisel said. “With those new events added in there we should put additional points on the board and place higher. I think we can shoot for a top-three position for sure on both sides. It’s within our reach. With nationals, I do think we have more guys who can score for us. Anything can happen at nationals, but I think our women should place top 10 and our guys hopefully can put a few more points on the board, especially in the throws.”

Due to expected inclement weather this weekend, Wayne State College moved its Wildcat Classic to Thursday (March 22). That schedule change means that only Concordia’s 5,000 and 10,000 meter runners will open up their outdoor seasons this week. The next meet on the schedule is the Fort Hays State University Invitational next Friday (March 30). The Bulldogs are set to host the Concordia Outdoor Invite April 6-7.

Other schedule highlights include the Drake Relays (April 26-28), the GPAC outdoor championships (May 4-5) in Sioux City, Iowa, and the NAIA outdoor championships (May 24-26) in Gulf Shores, Ala.