Track and field squads ready for indoor national championships
SEWARD, Neb. – Ranked fifth in the NAIA on the men’s side and seventh on the women’s side, the Concordia University track and field squads will seek top 10 national finishes at the 2015 NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships. The 50th annual men’s and 35th annual women’s event is set to take place over three days (March 5-7) at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio.
Following runner-up finishes for both the men and women at the GPAC championships on Feb. 20-21, head coach Kregg Einspahr likes the way his group of 29 national qualifiers stacks up on the national level.
“We’ve got an excellent national team for both men and women,” Einspahr said. “Using the year 2000 as an example, our men were third in the conference (second at nationals). We didn’t score as many points as Wesleyan and Doane, but we had some horses that were first and second in the conference. Those were the same guys who were first or second at nationals.
“I think we have a similar type of situation this year. On the men’s side this year it’s our throwers, vaulters and multi-event guys who can score some big points. We’re hoping to finish in the top eight at the national championships for both the men and women. Usually if you can score over 30 points you can get in the top 10. We think we have two teams that can do that.”
On the men’s side, Concordia owns 10 marks that rank among the top 10 nationally. Sophomore Zach Lurz, already a three-time GPAC champion, leads the NAIA in the shot put by more than three feet with his school record toss of 58’ 4” at the conference meet. Lurz and company have been ranked inside the top 10 of the NAIA all season and believe they’re poised to improve upon their 17th-place finish at the 2014 indoor national meet.
Lurz is one of six Concordia men’s throwers who will make the trip to Geneva. Trey Farmer, Jose Rojas and Josh Slechta also own one or more top-10 nationally ranked throwing measurements.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better. It really pushes me to be at my best every day,” Lurz said of being surrounded by a deep group of throwers. “When it comes to meet time, I’m ready to go thanks to these guys.”
Lurz and CJ Muller are returning All-Americans from last year’s national championships. Muller ran the leadoff leg for the All-America 4x400 meter relay that included three seniors who have graduated.
The men also have a talented group of heptathletes in Lucas Wiechman (2nd nationally in the event), Brandon Ramos (5th) and Brandon Cook (8th). The trio combined to score 18 points in the heptathlon at the conference meet. In addition, Wiechman and Ramos will compete in the pole vault at nationals.
On the women’s side, Kim Wood headlines the list of 15 Bulldogs headed to the national championships. Wood put forth an impressive display at the GPAC championships, winning three different races in a span of roughly two-and-a-half hours. She will run the one mile and the 1,000 meter race and possibly a leg of the 4x800 meter relay at the national championships.
Wood and her teammates are healthy and peaking at the appropriate time.
“By and large, the folks we’re taking to the national meet are really ready to go,” Einspahr said. “We have some athletes who can score some big points. We had by far our best marks at the conference meet, across the board. I’m really for some good things. We’re hitting our stride at the right time of the year. When you have your best performances at the conference meet, it gives you some reassurance and some confidence.”
While Wood looks to pile up points on the track, Concordia’s Cassie Starks (pole vault) and Kali Robb (weight throw) may make runs at national titles in their respective events. Both top the Bulldogs with marks that rank second nationally. Robb is the school record holder in the shot put and Starks broke a program standard in the pole vault in her GPAC title winning performance on Feb. 21. Robb is one of five female Bulldog national qualifiers, while Starks will be joined in the pole vault competition by teammate Cynthia Mick.
Returning women’s All-Americans from last year’s indoor championships include Stephanie Coley (shot put), Erika Schroeder (4x800 meter relay), Marti Vlasin (4x800 meter relay) and Kim Wood (1,000 meter run, 4x800 meter relay).
Since 1997, the Bulldog men have placed inside the top 25 on 14 occasions, including six top 10 finishes. During that same time period, the women have finished in the top 25 a total of 12 times with three top 10 placements.
Fourteen of Concordia’s 29 national qualifiers competed at the 2014 indoor national championships. The experienced group of Bulldogs will know what to expect in Geneva.
“That’s critical,” Einspahr said of the experience factor. “It’s very important to have been there and done that. There are not a lot of college men and women who can go to the national meet for the first time and have great performances. That experience is important for all kinds of things. It’s a 300-meter track, so that’s different for the runners. I think competitors are a lot more settled down if they’ve been there at least once before.”
There are over 140 men's and women's teams that will make the trip to Geneva. The championships begin on Thursday with the women's pentathlon at 1 p.m. EST and the men's heptathlon at 1:30 p.m. Last year, the Oklahoma Baptist women repeated for the second-straight season and the Indiana Tech men earned their first-ever banner in the team competition.
Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video streaming company, will be broadcasting all sessions of the national championships. Packages can be purchased for $10. For more information, click here.
Concordia indoor national finishes since 2000
2014: M – 17th | W – 11th
2013: M – 27th | W – 13th
2012: M – 38th | W – 29th
2011: M – 7th | W – 26th
2010: M – 15th | W – 12th
2009: M – 12th | W – 11th
2008: M – 7th | W – 14th
2007: M – 19th | W – 36th
2006: M – 5th | W – 29th
2005: M – 26th | W – 15th
2004: M – 7th | W – 27th
2003: M – 5th | W – 9th
2002: M – 20th | W – 8th
2001: M – 12th | W – 21st
2000: M – 2nd | W – 12th