By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant
SEWARD, Neb. – It’s crunch time. The Concordia Bulldogs track and field programs will walk into Fuhrer Fieldhouse on Saturday with nothing to lose and everything to gain. The men will be looking to win the first ever GPAC championship in the history of Concordia track and field. The women will be seeking their first title since 2010. Both teams will present loaded fields with tons of a talent, primed and ready for one last meet.
Last season, the Bulldog women finished fourth in the conference meet. The tide has turned, however, as this year, the women boast a No. 7 national ranking and are ranked second in a conference that has five total teams in the top 25 nationally.
Behind a strong Doane team that ranks fourth nationally, Concordia will face fierce competition from eighth-ranked Hastings (in a likely battle for second place) and No. 18 Dordt and 25th-rated Morningside. Collectively, the GPAC comes in as the second strongest conference in the nation, according to the USTFCCA’s computer ratings.
Having qualified for nationals in the 600 meter 800 meter, 1,000 meter, and 1 mile runs, as well as the 4x800 and 4x400 meter relays, sophomore Kim Wood will certainly be an athlete to watch come Saturday.
Senior Sarah Kortze will be looking to put an exclamation point on her storied Bulldog career this weekend. Kortze comes in at second place in the 3,000 meter run and is the favorite to win the 5,000 meter run.
The women will certainly get some help from the field events as three individuals, juniors Rianne Gross, Cassandra Starks and Shelby Yelden are tied for third in the conference in the pole vault competition. Standout senior Jamie Crouse will also be looking to put the finishing touches on her Bulldog career in the weight throw in which she is currently leading the conference.
Other events to keep an eye on for the women include the 4x800 relay in which the Bulldogs currently place second in the conference and 4x400 meter relay that has the Bulldogs in second. Lydia Pomerenke also comes in at second in the conference for the pentathlon. Pomerenke and both relays have qualified for nationals.
The men are sure to be hungry to win a first ever title, and just may have all the tools they need to do just that.
With individuals in scoring position in nearly every single event, the list of athletes to watch is a tall order.
Seniors Noah Smith and John Cartier come in at second in each of their respective events, Smith’s being the 60 meter dash and Cartier the 400 meter run. Both individuals are just hundredths of a second away from a first-place finish. Cartier will also compete on the 4x400 meter relay squad, which currently comes in at first for the conference and fourth nationally.
Senior Hayden Hohnholt will toe the starting line with a current first place standing to defend in the 3,000 meter run with junior Ben Sievert on his heels, who currently ranks second in the event for conference competition. Hohnholt also comes in at second in the conference in the 5,000 meter run with Sievert close behind in third. Hohnholt ranks eighth nationally for the event.
Senior Carson Farr, currently leading the conference in the pole vault competition by nearly a foot will look to bring home first place as will sophomore Cody Boelstorff, who sits in second place in the weight throw, just two inches behind first place. Farr is currently second in the country while Boelstorff is in fourth.
The men will be competing against stout competition, as the GPAC currently ranks third in the nation among NAIA schools (USTFCCCA ratings). The Bulldogs, ranked seventh nationally, will likely battle with Doane for the conference championship. At No. 14, Hastings is not to be overlooked either. Nebraska Wesleyan and Briar Cliff complete the list of ranked GPAC schools with respective rankings of 19 and 25.
The final showdown will commence at 1 p.m. on Friday beginning with men’s and women’s pentathlon and heptathlon competitions. Saturday will begin at 2 p.m. when the gun sounds for the women’s 5000 meter run.