SEWARD, Neb. – Nearly three weeks since a thrilling GPAC outdoor championship meet, 32 Concordia University track and field athletes are set to compete at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. The action will begin from Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium with multi events at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The meet will then heat up on Friday and Saturday.
Head coach Kregg Einspahr’s squads are coming off finishes of fifth on the men’s side and 11th on the women’s side at the indoor national championships in Geneva, Ohio. Expectations will again be high for the GPAC champion men and conference runner-up women.
“I think both teams have a legitimate chance to be in the top eight,” Einspahr said. “We will really depend on our throwers, our pole vaulters on the women’s side and the multi events. I think our relays can come through with some points that we’re not projected to get. You always hope to balance points that you don’t expect with some possible disappointments. We will be a little bit disappointed if we’re not in the top 10.”
Both squads have big potential for scoring in the hammer throw with seven Bulldogs apiece scheduled to whirl on Thursday in the men’s and women’s competitions. Throws coach Ed McLaughlin would love to see his men dominate the event like they did at the conference meet where they garnered seven of the top eight finishes. Boellstorff, a junior from Waverly, Neb., is the national leader in the hammer (205’ 8”).
Boellstorff is one of 16 throwers that Concordia traveled to Alabama. Among them, Liz King (javelin), Zach Lurz (shot put) and Josh Slechta (weight throw) have past individual national titles to their credit. King is the defending national champ in the javelin and a three-time GPAC titlist in the event.
While several throwers hope to land All-America plaques, Einspahr believes his group of runners can make some noise. Sophomore CJ Muller will compete in both the 400 meter dash and as part of the 4x400 meter relay. Muller stepped up his game at the indoor national championships and placed sixth in the 600 meter race.
“It’s going to be a big PR for me to be All-America in the open 400,” Muller said. “I think it’s possible. Indoor I had a huge PR in the 600. I think anything is possible. The training has been there. I just have to go out and execute and hopefully have fun while I’m doing it.”
Each of Concordia’s 11 indoor All-Americans have made the trek to Alabama. Both Lurz (shot put; weight throw) and Brandon Ramos (heptathlon; pole vault) captured All-America status in more than one event. The accomplished Kim Wood nearly gave the women a national titlist. She placed runner up in the 1,000 meters.
Wood is a key figure for the 4x800 meter relay that will run at 5:40 p.m. CT in Thursday’s preliminaries. Senior Erika Schroeder expects that she and her Bulldog teammates will be part of the finals of the event on Friday.
“Right now we have five girls who can run the 4x8 and we’re just waiting on who’s going to run it,” Schroeder said. “They’re all great runners and they’ve all had a great season. We’re hoping to make finals and make All-American status – definitely in the top six.”
The Bulldogs and other Midwest teams will have to adjust to the warmer weather down south. The cool Nebraska spring will give way to more humidity and projected high temperatures in the mid-80s in Gulf Shores.
Einspahr believes the weather will lend to great performances for Concordia athletes he says are well-prepared to compete at their peak.
“We have some people who aren’t seeded high, but are performing really well right now,” Einspahr said. “That’s what counts. Sometimes you see kids who are sick, tired or not focused. The kids who are well-coached and competing well at the end of the year can really come through. I think we have a mature group that’s been there before. That makes a difference.”
Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of 17 select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting the championships on www.NAIANetwork.com. A subscription package to view the entire three-day event is $10. For more information, including how to register and sign-up for an account, click here.
Concordia outdoor national finishes since 2005
2014: M – 11th | W – 9th
2013: M – 42nd | W – 20th
2012: M – 57th | W – 15th
2011: M – 11th | W – 57th
2010: M – 24th | W – 14th
2009: M – 7th | W – 19th
2008: M – 11th | W – 29th
2007: M – 15th | W – 24th
2006: M – 7th | W – 28th
2005: M – 13th | W – 17th
Concordia indoor national finishes since 2000
2015: M – 5th | W – 11th
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