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Track programs seek to build upon indoor season

By Jake Knabel on Mar. 29, 2016 in Track & Field

At a glance

MEN
Head coach: Kregg Einspahr (24th year)
2015 indoor finishes: 2nd (GPAC); 5th (NAIA)
2015 outdoor finishes: 1st (GPAC); 1st (NAIA)
2016 indoor finishes: 3rd (GPAC); 3rd (NAIA)
2016 indoor All-Americans: Trey Barnes (shot, weight), Cody Boellstorff (*weight), Trevor Bresson (4x400), Philip Kreutzer (weight), Zach Lurz (*shot, weight), Nathan Matters (4x400), CJ Muller (600m, 4x400), Jose Rojas (shot), Josh Slechta (weight), Jaap van Gaalen (4x400), Lucas Wiechman (pole vault, heptathlon)
2015 All-Americans returning: Cody Boellstorff (*hammer), Matthew Chapa (4x400), Zach Lurz (discus, hammer, *shot, weight), CJ Muller (4x400, *600m), Jose Rojas (shot), Josh Slechta (hammer, *weight), Jaap van Gaalen (4x400), Lucas Wiechman (decathlon, heptathlon, pole vault)
2015 All-Americans lost: Brandon Cook (decathlon, heptathlon), Trey Farmer (hammer), Tai Pleasant (4x400), Brandon Ramos (heptathlon, pole vault)
*National champion

WOMEN
Head coach: Kregg Einspahr (24th year)
2015 indoor finishes: 2nd (GPAC); 11th (NAIA)
2015 outdoor finishes: 2nd (GPAC); 5th (NAIA)
2016 indoor finishes: 2nd (GPAC); 5th (NAIA)
2016 indoor All-Americans: Kattie Cleveland (weight), Stephanie Coley (shot, weight), McKenzie Gravo (pole vault), Liz King (weight), Samantha Liermann (shot), Kali Robb (shot, weight), Kim Wood (1,000m, one mile)
2015 All-Americans returning: Stephanie Coley (hammer, shot), Liz King (hammer, javelin), Cynthia Mick (pole vault), Kali Robb (hammer, weight), Katricia Svoboda (javelin), Kim Wood (1,000m)
2015 All-Americans lost: Cassie Starks (pole vault)

Season Outlook
The Concordia University track and field programs are in the midst of an unprecedented run. The men have finished inside the top five at three-straight national meets, including the 2015 outdoor national title. Meanwhile, the women have turned in fifth-place claims at back-to-back national championships.

Do the Bulldogs have what it takes to make another run at a national title this outdoor season? The lineup for outdoor, which features additional throwing events, favors Concordia and its stacked group of long tossers that produced 14 All-America honors and two national titles at this year’s NAIA indoor meet. Fresh off an indoor national title in the weight throw, junior Cody Boellstorff will now have the opportunity to defend his 2015 outdoor title in the hammer.

It was also a big indoor season for shot put national champion Zach Lurz, who earned the honor of NAIA Men’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Year, as chosen by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. From that same source, throws coach Ed McLaughlin received the distinction of NAIA Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year. The present day represents the golden age of the Bulldog throwing program.

“We had some amazing PRs and people competed so well at conference and nationals,” McLaughlin said in an interview for the Bulldog Coaches Show. “It was a whole team effort. There were very few people who did not perform at their best at the end of the season. As a coach, that’s what you’re training for, but you can’t always expect it. During indoor nationals, you’re on cloud nine the whole time.”

The Concordia men have won the last two GPAC outdoor championships and figure to be a strong contender to three-peat. Now in his 24th season as cross country and track and field head coach, Kregg Einspahr likes how things are shaping up this spring.

“In a lot of ways we’ll probably be better in outdoor,” Einspahr said. “We pick up a couple field events, the javelin and the discus, that we don’t have for indoor. We lose a couple events in the long sprints and in the short middle distances and we pick up a couple longer events. I think that probably favors us. Two of the events we gain are the steeplechase and the 10K. That should be an advantage for us. We’ve always had a strong steeplechase group and I think that will continue on this year. I think it will be a good change for us during the outdoor season.”

The astounding Kim Wood will have one more crack at a national title of her own as she enters her final season of competition in what’s been a tremendous career. She put together one of the greatest GPAC performances ever by a Concordia athlete when she won four individual running events, including three in meet record times on Feb. 20. But Wood will have plenty of motivation this spring after placing third (one mile) and fourth (1,000 meters) at the indoor national championships in her events.

The lone current Concordia female athlete with a national title to her credit is senior Liz King, who won the javelin competition in 2014. King came up just shy of a repeat national championship a year ago when she finished runner up. King is one of the leaders of a deep women’s throws group that features All-Americans such as Stephanie Coley and Kali Robb.

In total, only one female All-American (Cassie Starks) is gone from the 2015 indoor/outdoor squads. Two Bulldogs were first-time All-Americans during this past indoor season, McKenzie Gravo and Samantha Liermann. Gravo is part of a rock-solid group of women’s pole vaulters that includes Allison Brooks and Cynthia Mick.

The majority of the key names are also back in place for the men. Some of the headliners beyond the dominant bunch of throwers are All-Americans in CJ Muller and Lucas Wiechman. Einspahr made mention of several distance runners who will play a role in Concordia’s fortunes at the conference championships. Those athletes include Jordan Potrzeba, Coleman Cogswell, Taylor Mueller and Chris Shelton. Potrzeba has been an all-conference performer in cross country and track. On the women's side, Taylor Grove is an up and comer.

According to Lurz, he and his teammates feed off of each other’s successes. And those successes have been large in number in recent seasons. The Bulldogs have gotten used to doing big things.

“At this point I almost feel entitled walking around campus as national champions,” Lurz said. “I could not be happier with the choice I made for college. They support me in like no one else. You have the alumni come back and talk about how proud they are. This is the best place I could be.”

May 26-28 a large group of Bulldogs is likely to return to the scene of the first team national title in Concordia history. That’s when the NAIA outdoor national championships take place in Gulf Shores, Ala. It’s a location where Einspahr and his coaching staff shared in sheer joy when the Bulldog men captured an improbable national title. The seafood is an added bonus.

“We’ve had great success at Gulf Shores,” Einspahr said. “We’re looking forward to getting back down there. I know the coaches enjoy the seafood down there. We have good memories there. We’re looking forward to getting back and seeing how we stack up during the outdoor track season.

“We’re optimistic that we can get back there and have another real good showing – hopefully a couple more top-10 finishes at the national championships.”

The outdoor season gets underway on Saturday at the Hastings Invite. Then on April 9, Concordia will be inside Bulldog Stadium to host the annual Concordia Outdoor Invite.