By Taylor Mueller
GENEVA, Ohio – Day two of competition at the 2015 NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships was a busy one for the Concordia Bulldogs as 17 different individuals competed.
Topping the headlines for Concordia, however, was junior Josh Slechta who notched himself a national title crown in the weight throw with a heave of 59’6.” The 6’5” native of Kennard, NE hit three personal record marks en route to his first ever national title.
With five Bulldogs entered in the finals of the weight throw, Slechta emerged as the main contender as throwing coach Ed McLaughlin admitted that the in-team competition was wide open as to who was capable of making a strong push for the title.
“We knew we had a couple with a shot (for a national title),” McLaughlin said. “There was no definitive leader going into nationals. We knew we had a couple who were capable of throwing far enough, it just happened to be Josh. I'm so happy and completely excited for him. He actually (earned a personal record) three times today. He lost the lead in the finals and then jumped right back in front. I’m beyond excited for Josh.”
Although he is not one to be outspoken, Slechta maintained a quiet intensity and even slight dissatisfaction in his own performance, though the reality of the situation gradually began to kick in.
“He's pretty quiet,” McLaughlin said. “He doesn't get real emotional. He reacted very maturely. He was actually upset he didn't break 60 feet. I think about an hour later he realized what he had done and was amazed. He was the only football player in the field, and it was his first time at indoor nationals. That's a big deal.”
As for the remaining four weight throwers, sophomore Zach Lurz garnered All-American honors for the second straight year with a toss of 57’3” to take fifth place. Sophomore Philip Kreutzer narrowly missed All-American honors by one inch and settled for ninth place with a toss of 55’9.” Senior Trey Farmer took 10th with a throw of 54’4” while junior Jose Rojas notched 12th place with a heave of 54’3.”
The women had a strong showing of their own in the weight throw, with another five individuals joining in the competition. Sophomore Kali Robb finished her impressive season with a third place finish and a throw of 60’9” to claim All-American honors.
“Kali (earned a personal record) too,” McLaughlin said. “She could have easily been second. Maybe by next year she'll be there. It was actually Kali's best series of her life. She was up around 60 feet all day. I was excited to see that.”
Junior Stephanie Coley missed the remaining All-American spot by less than an inch with her toss of 54’10” and settled for ninth place. Junior Elizabeth King took 18th with a throw of 51’5,” while junior Nicole Perry took 19th with a toss of 51’2.” Junior Kattie Cleveland finished in 20th with a heave of 49’2.”
“It was a real decent day. We came away with three All-Americans and had five make it to the finals. That's a good day.”
Concordia will have more throwers in action tomorrow when they compete in the shot put competition, an event that McLaughlin noted will require significant focus and poise.
“Obviously we want to do our best and compete our best. If that happens then it's going to be a really good day. There's no easy road to the finals. If you don't have it, you're going to be sitting out watching the finals. It comes down to which throwers show up and which don't. It's going to be exciting. We've got three girls in the top 15 in the shot and three guys in the top 12.”
Several other Bulldogs had impressive performances on the day as well and were able to come through with All-American performances. Senior Cassandra Starks took sixth place in the pole vault, clearing 11’10.”
The Bulldogs gained significant attention in the heptathlon, as each of the three Bulldogs who qualified for the national meet finished with All-American honors in the event. Sophomore Lucas Wiechman moved up a spot to finish in third place with 5014 points. Junior Brandon Ramos had a monster day and jumped up six spots to take fourth place with 4903 points while sophomore Brandon Cook took eighth with 4628 points.
Other Bulldogs in action included junior Cynthia Mick who took 18th in the pole vault with a clearance of 11’3.” Freshman Emily Sievert took 15th place in the 3000 meter run with a time of 10:36.
Junior Kim Wood took 22nd in the mile run in 5:22, but came back strong to qualify for the 1000 meter run on Saturday with a preliminary time of 2:54. Sophomore CJ Muller also punched his ticket to the finals of the 600 meter run with a time of 1:20 in the 600 meter run.
With just one day left of competition, the Bulldogs are tied for first place in the overall team standings with Indiana Tech at 26 points apiece. The women sit in 10th place with nine points.
A top five finish is looking to be very realistic, should the Bulldogs be able to string together several strong performances in the final day of competition.
“That would be great for the program and great for the school,” McLaughlin said. “We're doing it the right way. We have great kids who work really hard. It comes down to the way you perform on the day of the meet.”