11 NCAA Div. III individual championships
Heading into the fifth year of his tenure, women’s track and field coach Joe Dunham is eager to build on Central College’s recent accomplishments.
Central has placed third or better at the Iowa Conference championships 10 of the past 11 seasons, including the last seven straight. And the program has been buoyed by back-to-back top-20 NCAA Division III finishes at the outdoor national meet for the first time since the national championship era of the early ’80s.
A number of impact athletes were lost to graduation, including all-Americans Morgan Darrow and Caitlin Wilson. But 17 letterwinners return for the 37-member Dutch squad, including senior all-Americans Felicia Coleman and Rachel Purdy.
“The success of the past several years has set the bar high,” said Dunham. “The women we have now know what it takes to achieve at a high level. I’m excited to see what we’re capable of this year.”
Central has traditionally been strong in the sprinting events, and in 2013 returns one of its most decorated athletes in recent history. Coleman has re-written the Dutch record books in the short sprints, breaking four individual marks since 2011 in addition to four relay records. And in an early start to the 2013-13 indoor season in December, she cracked her own record in the 60-meter dash. Both Coleman and Purdy were members of the NCAA Div. III runner-up 4x400-meter squad in 2011.
“We are blessed to have great leadership in this group with Felicia and Rachel,” said Dunham.
Central’s sprints crew will also be bolstered by a trio of sophomore letterwinners in Taylor Beckman, Camie Kibbee, and Allie McBroom. Freshmen Melanie Nielson of Atlantic and Monica Ruiz of Hudson may also play a role.
“We have a talented group here with a good combination of youth and experience,” said Dunham. “We’re counting on them to be big contributors this year.”
The Dutch will also benefit from new associate head coach Jim Fuller, former head coach at NCAA Division II Northern State University (S.D.).
“Jim has a great track record of success,” said Dunham. “Our athletes have been responding well to him and I have no doubt he’ll extend our prominence in this area.”
As in previous years, the Dutch will rely heavily on its multi-eventers to be a factor in the jumping events. Sophomore Hillary Hotz was a two-time league placewinner in the high jump as a rookie and senior co-captain Morgan Sharp is an all-conference long jumper.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Gillett will dabble in the jumps and will be joined by freshmen Tess Ory of Earlham and Abby Saladino of Long Grove.
“We will have some new faces in this group and I’m excited to see how they develop,” said Dunham.
The Central coaching staff will also be strengthened by the addition of Jay Rhoten. Rhoten is a former assistant coach and all-American for the Dutch.
“We are fortunate to have Jay back on our staff,” said Dunham. “He was a great jumper here and will be a big boost for us in these events.”
Dunham is optimistic about the Dutch hurdlers in 2013. Gillett returns after a solid rookie season and will be joined by transfers Meredith and McKenna Zimmerman of Urbandale. Saladino will also be a factor.
“This is an area where we have seen a lot of development over the past couple years,” said Dunham.” It should be one of the stronger parts of our program.”
A young but experienced middle-distance group returns. Although the squad hasn’t seen top-flight talent in recent years, the group has managed to score two consecutive all-conference finishes in the 4x800-meter relay.
Senior Amanda Lamb contributed to both all-league performances. In addition, sophomore Sarah Mueller and Emily Saville were on the team in 2012. Saville was also a placewinner in the 800 meters. Sophomore Alison Ranniger will join the squad this year, as well as freshmen Molly Bramble of Waukee and Elin Phipps of Boone.
“Many of these ladies are coming off a season of solid training in cross country,” said Dunham. “They’ve put themselves in position to do well this spring.”
Senior co-captain Mel McDermott will lead the charge for the distance crew. McDermott was an all-conference performer in cross country in the fall and has been a multiple-time league placewinner in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs.
“We are fortunate to have strong leadership from Mel,” said Dunham. “She was a no-doubt choice for captain and makes everyone around her better.”
Junior Emma Nelson will also be counted on to contribute. Nelson was consistently a top finisher in cross country and is a conference placewinner in the steeplechase. Sophomore Alyssa Eaves should play a factor, and they’ll be joined by cross country letterwinner Mallory Welk and freshman Gabi Wilson of Urbandale.
“My hope is that these women can pick up where they left off after the cross country season,” said Dunham. “There is a lot of potential in this group.”
Multiple-time all-American and conference champion Darrow is not someone that can be replaced, but Dunham says the Dutch throwers shouldn’t be overlooked. The group will be lean, but will welcome back senior Jess Fevold after missing last season due to injury.
“It’s exciting to have Jess back for her fifth year,” said Dunham. “I believe she is primed for a great season.”
Fevold was a conference placewinner in the shot put and the weight throw in 2011. She will be joined by freshman April McCarthy of Stoughton, Wis.
Central will also welcome the addition of Brenda Fuller to the coaching staff. She was a highly successful throws coach at Northern State (S.D.).
“Numbers are down compared to what we are used to,” said Dunham. “But we can still score some points here. Coach (Allan) Walz has done a great job the past few years and adding Brenda is a big boost. It is an exciting time to be a thrower at Central.”
Multi-events have long been Central’s calling card and Dunham doesn’t expect anything to change in 2013. Although the Dutch lost an all-American in Wilson, the returning combined events group has solid credentials. Sharp was an all-league heptathlete in 2012 while Hotz was also a placewinner. They’ll be joined by Gillett.
“Being a multi-eventer at Central has a lot of meaning and I think Coach (Jim) Fuller understands that,” said Dunham. “We’ve relied on them at the conference and national meets and I’m confident they’ll come through for us again.”
Wartburg is expected to lead the pack in the conference again. Second place is up for grabs, and Dunham expects Luther, Loras, Simpson, and Central to be in the hunt.
“Our goal is always to finish as high as we can,” said Dunham. “Winning the whole thing may not be in the cards this year, but it’s something we’ve got our eyes on in the future.”
It’s difficult to make predictions for the national meet, but Dunham believes Central’s recent string of success can be maintained with this squad.
“As always, the more people we can qualify for the national meet, the better. We’ve got some great possibilities across the board,” said Dunham. “It will be exciting to see how it all plays out.”