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Season preview: 2019 Concordia outdoor track & field

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 26, 2019 in Track & Field

Head coach: Matt Beisel (3rd year)
2018 indoor finishes: T-4th (GPAC); T-42nd (NAIA)
2018 outdoor finishes: 6th (GPAC); T-69th (NAIA)
2019 indoor finishes: 2nd (GPAC); 9th (NAIA)
2019 indoor All-Americans: Jacob Cornelio (weight throw); Nathan Matters (4x800 meter relay); Josiah McAllister (1,000 meters; 4x800 meter relay); Thomas Taylor (4x800 meter relay); Christian Van Cleave (4x800 meter relay); Cody Williams (heptathlon; pole vault).
2018 outdoor All-Americans returning: Jacob Cornelio (hammer throw).
2018 outdoor All-Americans lost: None. 

Head coach: Matt Beisel (3rd year)
2018 indoor finishes: 5th (GPAC); 9th (NAIA)
2018 outdoor finishes: 3rd (GPAC); T-12th (NAIA)
2019 indoor finishes: 1st (GPAC); 9th (NAIA)
2019 indoor All-Americans: Rachel Battershell (4x400 meter relay); Leah Larson (triple jump); Sarah Lewis (4x400 meter relay); Samantha Liermann (shot put); Erin Mapson (pole vault); Jamie Nikodym (4x400 meter relay); Jacee Pfeifer (4x400 meter relay; pole vault); Addie Shaw (weight throw).
2018 outdoor All-Americans returning: Samantha Liermann (shot put); Johanna Ragland (hammer throw); Addie Shaw (*discus); Carley Weisser (discus).
2018 outdoor All-Americans lost: None.
*National champion

Concordia all-time conference titles
MEN – indoor: 2014 | outdoor: 2014, 2015
WOMEN – indoor: 2010, 2019 | outdoor: 1998, 2010, 2012

Concordia all-time conference runner-up finishes
MEN – indoor: 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019 | outdoor: 2002, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017
WOMEN – indoor: 2003, 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016 | outdoor: 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

There’s momentum heading into the outdoor season for the Concordia University track and field squads, which enjoyed memorable runs throughout the indoor campaign. The women celebrated their first GPAC indoor title in nearly a decade and then recorded the program’s 10th top 12 finish in a row at a national meet. Meanwhile, the men placed as the conference runner up and returned to elite status nationally by finishing ninth at the NAIA indoor national championships.

The potential exists for even loftier attainment this spring for programs that are antsy to get the outdoor season started. It was put on hold after the Bulldogs made the decision to back out of the Wildcat Classic (Wayne State College) this past weekend due to poor travel conditions caused by flooding in Nebraska.

Now it’s go time. Says head coach Matt Beisel, “We think we can be better going into outdoor. We have a lot of things that come into play that we weren’t able to do indoors. We have so many wonderful kids who are going to be contributors. We’ll see what unfolds.”

The additional throwing events in outdoor has been a factor that has typically played to the strengths of Concordia track and field, which won both of its national titles in outdoor – 2015 on the men’s side and 2016 on the women’s side. Named the 2019 NAIA Women’s Indoor National Assistant Coach of the Year, Ed McLaughlin leads another deep group of throwers that added an individual national title with Addie Shaw in the discus last year. Additionally, senior Samantha Liermann will have her last go-round on the college level. She is a two-time shot put national champion.

On the men’s side, Jacob Cornelio is the headliner and one of the program’s most well-respected leaders. He is coming off a national runner up finish in the weight throw in indoor. The native of Elk Grove, Calif., is still working towards reaching his vast potential. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for him to be the next in a long line of Bulldog throws national champions.

“Jacob Cornelio is a fantastic leader,” Beisel said. “He was nominated as one of our team captains and has been a great leader in a lot of different ways, both for his event group and also for the entire team. He’s a guy you can rely on. When he came here he was in the shadow of guys like (national champions) Cody Boellstorff and Zach Lurz. I think he learned a lot from those guys what the level of expectation is here. He’s obviously worked hard and it’s really paying off.”

The strengthening of the roster in other event areas played a big role in Concordia moving up the ladder in the GPAC indoor championship race. The Bulldogs emerged from the 2019 conference indoor meet with GPAC titles in six different events: women’s 4x400 meter relay, Allie Brooks (pole vault), Cornelio (weight throw), Taylor Grove (3,000 meters), Josiah McAllister (1,000 meters), Thomas Taylor (800 meters) and Cody Williams (heptathlon).

The ceiling is exceptionally high for the women’s team when it comes to prospects at the national level. The ninth-place indoor national finish was nothing to sneeze at, but the Bulldogs believe they left had the ability to put more points on the board. One of the highlights of the NAIA indoor meet was another school record breaking performance by the women’s 4x400 meter relay of Rachel Battershell, Sarah Lewis, Jamie Nikodym and Jacee Pfeifer. Three of the four are just freshmen. Pfeifer was the team’s top performer at the GPAC championships with the 18.5 team points she contributed.

Additional records were broken during the indoor season by Jessica Deterding (pentathlon) and Leah Larson (triple jump) on the women’s side. While the women’s throws group is obviously a deep one (four 2018 All-Americans), so too is the pole vault. That event area qualified five athletes for the indoor national championships, including All-Americans in Erin Mapson and Pfeifer, as well as Brooks, McKenzie Gravo and Tristen Mosier.

The increased number of throwing events will help – along with the roster additions of athletes who competed for the national championship women’s basketball team. Foremost among that group is freshman Claire Cornell, a decorated performer at Elm Creek High School, where she was the Nebraska all class long jump champion in each of her final three years as a prep. The plan is to try her out in the heptathlon in order to take advantage of her overall athleticism.

The presence of Cornell along with sophomore Cody Williams gives Concordia a potential multi-event national champion for both women and men. Williams was a national runner up in the heptathlon in indoor and continues to skyrocket as a rising star.

Says Beisel, “Cody has so many abilities and he continues to grow in maturity and leadership. When he came here he seemed like a good fit for the multis. He’s had early success being an All-American as a freshman and he’s got more in the tank.”

Cornelio and Williams are two elite level athletes for the men. Josiah McAllister has also made a big leap in his senior year. He was an indoor All-American in both the 1,000 meters and as part of the 4x800 meter relay. The men figure to have strong relay teams once again to go with a pole vault group that is on the rise. Williams and Gavin DeHaai were indoor pole vault national qualifiers and several of their teammates narrowly missed the mark.

Before the outdoor season even officially gets underway, Grove and fellow senior Evan Asche have already locked up spots to the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. They both qualified for the marathon courtesy of their performances at the Warrior Half Marathon back on Dec. 2. Grove (2018 GPAC 10,000 meter titlist) is one of three reigning GPAC outdoor champions on the Concordia roster. The other two are Liermann (shot put) and Williams (decathlon).

Due to expected inclement weather this Saturday, Hastings moved its Bronco Open to Sunday (March 31). The event is slated to get underway at 10 a.m. CT. The Bulldogs are scheduled to host three meets this outdoor season: the Concordia Outdoor Invite (April 5-6), the Concordia Blizzard Buster (April 27) and the Concordia Twilight (May 10). Mount Marty will serve as the host of the GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships (May 3-4). The season will conclude May 23-25 with the national championships in Gulf Shores.