By the end of the winter sports season, Concordia athletics vaulted back to the top of the GPAC all-sports standings in its bid for a second-straight conference all-sports title. The Bulldogs did so thanks to top-half of the conference finishes from each of their winter sports teams. Those placements were first, second, third, fourth and sixth. The lone GPAC title of the winter sports season came courtesy of head coach Dana Vote’s wrestling program, which celebrated its second conference title in a row.
Three Bulldogs win national titles in same weekend
In a great two-day run of national championship events, three different Bulldog athletes captured individual titles. It began with junior Cody Boellstorff nearly breaking 70 feet in the weight throw as he recorded his second career national title on March 4. The next day brought two more national titles as Zach Lurz defended his indoor shot put title and Andrew Schulte became the first titlist on the national stage in the history of Concordia wrestling. Boellstorff and Lurz also put themselves in elite company. They are just the ninth and 10th athletes in Concordia track and field annals to register multiple national titles.
Said Schulte of his 141-pound national title, “For me it was a moment of pure understanding. It made sense to me why I sacrificed and trained so many hours of hard work for a moment of being No. 1. That was special to me. I feel it’s been a long time coming for someone like myself. I got emotional. It was an unspeakable amount of joy. I would say it again. I can’t put into words how much joy I felt.”
Wood captures four GPAC individual titles, three in record time
There may not be a single-day string of performances by any Bulldog female athlete ever that can top what Kim Wood accomplished at the GPAC indoor track and field championships on Feb. 20. In a span of less than three hours, Wood won conference titles in the 600 meter, 800 meter, 1,000 meter and one-mile runs. In three of those races, the native of Greeley, Neb., broke GPAC meet records. Said head coach Kregg Einspahr, “That is just an unbelievable accomplishment for her.”
Shortly after the meet, Wood had this to say: “It was a really crazy day. I think a lot of it was just being mentally strong. Before every race I just told myself, ‘I’m strong. I can do it.’ It was about convincing myself I wasn’t tired.”
For a lot more on Wood’s historic performance, click HERE.
Wrestling continues GPAC dominance, extends conference win streak to 14
The Concordia wrestling program still has yet to drop a GPAC dual since the close of the 2013-14 season. Since then, the Bulldogs have dominated the conference. Head coach Dana Vote’s program has won 14-straight conference duals, winning them by a combined total of 482-123 while triumphing in 107 of 140 individual bouts. Then at the regional tournament that included all eight GPAC wrestling institutions, Concordia won the event by racking up 169 points compared to runner-up Morningside’s 115.5 points.
Said Vote after wrapping up the GPAC dual title, “I came in with a vision for the program with where we wanted to go. I went out and found kids and told them what our plan is. I told them if you buy in this is what’s going to happen. It’s a process. I don’t think we’re where I want to be yet, but we’re building in that direction.”
Track programs record back-to-back top-five national finishes
A stable of standout individuals again helped Concordia make waves on the national scale. The national titles of Cody Boellstorff and Zach Lurz propelled the Bulldog men to a third-place finish at the championships. On the women’s side, Concordia checked in at No. 5 with a total of seven individual All-Americans. Over the last three national championship meets, the Concordia men have placed fifth, first and third. During that same stretch, the women have been 11th, fifth and fifth. Bulldog throwers have played a starring role in the national success. They combined for 14 All-America honors at the 2016 indoor meet.
Women’s basketball makes fifth-straight national tournament appearance
There were bumps and bruises (Mary Janovich torn ACL) along the way, but Concordia found a way to reach the national tournament for the 15th time in program history. Though Janovich missed 14 games, the Bulldogs rallied behind star freshman Quinn Wragge, who became the first player in freshman to lead the team in scoring since Sarah Harrison in 2001-02. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad nailed nearly 10 triples per game and took down four top-10 ranked opponents along the way to a 22-10 overall record.
Said Olson prior to the national tournament, “I’m very proud of what we’ve done this year. We’ve basically done it with a totally brand new team. We have a few returners. Becky’s obviously a key part of our team, but we lost a lot of really good players from last year. Then we lost Mary and had to reconfigure our team halfway through the season and still made a really good run. It shows what a tough group this is.”
Folkerts’ dominant run
Junior Chandler Folkerts turned in one of the most dominant seasons ever by a Concordia men’s basketball post player. In an incredible stretch run from Jan. 2 through Feb. 13, Folkerts averaged 22.9 points per game. He finished the season with averages of 19.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 66.6 percent from the field (second best among NAIA Division II players). Folkerts topped all GPAC players with 13 double-doubles. His 34-point, 14-rebound effort at Northwestern on Jan. 9 helped earn himself the nickname, “The Chanimal.” Following the season, he was named first team all-conference, honorable mention All-America and first team Academic All-America.
2015-16 record: 18-12 overall; 10-10 GPAC (6th)
Top performer: Chandler Folkerts put together a dominant junior year on his way to being named first team all-conference for the second-straight season. He earned numerous additional honors, including CoSIDA first team Academic All-America, NAIA honorable mention All-America and CIT MVP recognition. A consistent force, Folkerts averaged 19.6 points and 8.5 rebounds while scoring 20 or more points 16 times. He also led the GPAC in both double-doubles (13) and field goal percentage (.666).
Season highlights: The third highest-scoring team in program history (85.8), the 2015-16 squad injected the program with energy by starting 4-0 with a win over then eighth-ranked Bellevue University. After a run of close losses, Concordia got back on track by winning seven of eight games during a red-hot offensive stretch late in the season. The final contest of that eight-game run was an exhilarating 110-89 senior day victory over Northwestern. Other highlights were the CIT championship won at Concordia-Chicago and Robby Thomas breaking the program’s all-time blocks record. In addition, transfer point guard Jamie Pearson enjoyed a memorable performance in the overtime win over Bellevue, racking up a career high 37 points. Both Folkerts and Thomas surpassed 1,000 career points during the season.
GPAC all-conference: Chandler Folkerts (first team); Jamie Pearson (second team); Robby Thomas (honorable mention); Eli Ziegler (honorable mention).
NAIA All-America: Chandler Folkerts (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Limback: It was a season in which we had a lot of aspirations to do big things. I thought we had a group that was hungry to compete for a GPAC championship and get to the national tournament. That’s not an easy thing to do. We started off well and beat some ranked teams. In the middle of the season we lost a lot of close games, ones that maybe we should have won. Then I thought we had a nice run at the end. I was pleased in some cases, but all of us will admit that we wanted to get a little further and get to that national tournament and compete for a conference championship.
2015-16 record: 22-10 overall; 14-8 GPAC (T-4th)
Top performer: Quinn Wragge was not an ordinary freshman. She especially took off after the team lost Mary Janovich to a torn ACL in the middle of January. Wragge wound up leading the team in scoring (14.8), rebounding (6.6), steals (1.84), blocks (0.59), field goal percentage (.585) and minutes per game (27.1). She became the first freshman to top Concordia in scoring since Sarah Harrison did so in 2001-02. Wragge was then named a first team all-conference selection. She finished the season with double-doubles in three of the final four games. In the first-round national tournament loss, Wragge put up 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Season highlights: Despite the losses of two All-Americans from the 2014-15 national runner-up team, the Bulldogs reloaded behind Wragge for another run to the national tournament. Concordia defeated four teams with top-10 national rankings at the time of the game, won the 2016 CIT title at Concordia-Chicago and flew by 20 wins for the eighth time under 10th-year head coach Drew Olson. Playing without Janovich, Concordia won three-straight crucial home games in February to essentially lock up the program’s 15th all-time national tournament bid. Even though it occurred in a loss, Wragge’s star shined brightly in a 29-point performance at top-ranked Morningside on Feb. 6. Exactly a week later, Becky Mueller became the 24th member of the program’s 1,000-point club.
GPAC all-conference: Quinn Wragge (first team); Mary Janovich (second team); Becky Mueller (honorable mention); Shelby Quinn (honorable mention).
Thoughts from Coach Olson: I thought it was a successful season. Obviously our program standards are higher than just getting to the national tournament. We expect to do well and advance. All things considered, you look back and realize it was a good season. It was a good accomplishment. We lost so many players from the previous season – big-time players. Then going to this season it took us a couple games to figure out how to win together. Mary Janovich goes down and we started that cycle all over having to figure out how to win again. To still get to the national tournament really showed a lot of toughness in that group.
Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field
2016 men’s GPAC finish: 3rd
2016 men’s national finish: 3rd
2016 women’s GPAC finish: 2nd
2016 women’s national finish: 5th
Top performers: Many athletes deserve mention here. The obvious ones are national champions Cody Boellstorff (weight throw) and Zach Lurz (shot put), who became the ninth and 10th athletes in program history to notch multiple national titles. Boellstorff continually topped his own school record in the weight throw on his way to reaching the top of the national medal stand. Lurz was similarly impressive and was named the NAIA Men’s Indoor National Field Athlete of the Year by the USTFCCCA. Boellstorff and Lurz were the headliners for a group of throwers who earned 14 total All-America honors at the indoor championships. On the women’s side, senior Kim Wood elevated herself to new heights. She put together an unprecedented GPAC meet in which she won four individual conference titles. Wood now owns school records in the indoor 600, 800, 1,000 and one-mile events.
Season highlights: For the second-straight national meet, both Bulldog teams turned in top-five finishes. For the men, it was third-straight top-five national finish, including the 2015 outdoor national title. A total of 31 Concordia athletes made their way to the national championships, including seven individuals who won at least one GPAC title. Thanks to his weight throw mark of just under 70 feet at the national championships, Boellstorff garnered the national performance of the meet. Boellstorff was one of 18 Bulldogs to reach the medal stand as All-Americans. A total of 39 Concordia athletes collected all-conference recognition in one more events. Following the season, Lurz and throws coach Ed McLaughlin (USTFCCCA-NAIA Men’s Indoor National Assistant Coach of the Year) received well-earned national accolades.
GPAC all-conference: See the full list HERE.
NAIA All-America: Trey Barnes (shot put – 8th), Cody Boellstorff (weight throw – 1st); Trevor Bressen (4x400m – 8th); Kattie Cleveland (weight throw – 6th); Stephanie Coley (shot put – 3rd, weight throw – 7th); McKenzie Gravo (pole vault – 5th); Liz King (weight throw – 8th); Philip Kreutzer (weight throw – 7th); Samantha Liermann (shot put – 2nd); Zach Lurz (shot put – 1st, weight throw – 3rd); Nathan Matters (4x400m – 8th); CJ Muller (600m – 6th; 4x400m – 8th); Kali Robb (weight throw – 4th, shot put – 6th); Jose Rojas (shot put – 2nd); Josh Slechta (weight throw – 5th); Jaap Van Gaalen (4x400m – 8th); Lucas Wiechman (heptathlon – 2nd; pole vault – 4th); Kim Wood (1 mile – 3rd, 1,000m – 4th).
Thoughts from Coach Einspahr: We’re very pleased with the way our athletes worked so hard all season and made the most of their abilities. We came through with a couple great performances at the national championships. It really reflects well on how determined our athletes were to have a great season. It turned out very well for us.
2015-16 record: 13-4 overall; 7-0 GPAC (1st)
NAIA North finish: 1st
NAIA national finish: 8th
Top performer: Andrew Schulte won the first national title in program history in completing the best season ever by a Concordia wrestler. The native of Corona, Calif., went 40-6 overall while breaking the school record for wins in a season. Schulte earned the 141-pound NAIA North Qualifier title and was named the GPAC wrestler of the year. He won each of his final 26 matches of the season and did not allow a single offensive score during his five bouts at the national championships where he defeated opponents ranked third, seventh and 10th and 12th in his weight class. He will enter his final season as a Bulldog with a career record of 60-10.
Season highlights: Concordia extended its GPAC dual win streak to 14 in the process of wrapping up a second-straight conference dual title. It also dominated the NAIA North Qualifier, which was made up solely of GPAC squads. Four Concordia grapplers claimed NAIA North titles: Matt Atwood (184), Ceron Francisco (285), Jr Lule (157) and Andrew Schulte (141). The Bulldogs then put three individuals on the medal stand, including national champion Schulte, at the national championships. Ken Burkhardt Jr. and Kodie Cole, like Schulte, were repeat All-Americans. Their team finish of eighth represented the highest national finish in program history. Earlier in the season, Concordia finished seventh at the National Duals, marking the first time in school history that the Bulldogs placed at the event.
GPAC all-conference: Dana Vote (coach of the year); Andrew Schulte (wrestler of the year; first team); Matt Atwood (first team); Ceron Francisco (first team); Jr Lule (first team); Tommy Bailey (second team); Foster Bunce (second team); Ken Burkhardt Jr. (second team); Dmitri Smith (honorable mention).
NAIA All-America: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197; 7th), Kodie Cole (133; 5th) and Andrew Schulte (141; 1st).
Thoughts from Coach Vote: Overall we had a great season. Was it where we wanted to finish nationally? Not exactly, but we keep improving. We have high goals. We made some gains this year. We just want to keep climbing. If you’re an All-American, you want to climb higher on the podium next year.