15 NCAA Div. III individual championships
PELLA—Five Central College athletes have been selected to compete at the NCAA Division III outdoor track and field championships at La Crosse, Wis. Thursday through Saturday. The meet will be hosted by the University of Wis.-La Crosse at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex.
High expectations for men—The Dutch men have recorded seven top-10 finishes at the national meet, including a seventh-place showing in 2011 and a tie for ninth in 2012. The most recent rankings from United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association have Central pegged at No. 11, one spot lower than last week.
Coach Joe Dunham expects another strong effort from his current group.
“Our goal is to always compete the best we can with the people we have at the meet,” said Dunham. “Any time you can bring four athletes in six events that is pretty good. There aren’t a lot of schools with that much representation. If we do what we’re capable of we should be right in the mix with those top teams.”
Sophomore Eric Larson (Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) is Central’s lone returner with outdoor championship experience. Larson was fifth in the 2012 decathlon competition and has also collected a pair of indoor all-American plaques, including a national championship heptathlon performance in March. Larson enters this weekend with the top mark in the decathlon (6,717 points) as well as the ninth seed in the long jump (23-10.75).
“Obviously we have a high goals and expectations for Eric coming off an indoor national championship and a great outdoor season,” said Dunham. “We were able to get him rested up last weekend after a big conference meet so he should be ready to go.”
Sophomore Eli Horton (Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) will make his outdoor national meet debut after an outstanding sophomore campaign. He has been recognized as an all-American in cross country and indoor track over the past six months and swept the 1,500 and 5,000-meter runs at the Iowa Conference outdoor meet. He qualified for the NCAA championships in both events and holds the top qualifying spot in the 5,000 meters (14:12.4) and the 15th spot in the 1,500 meters (3:51.06).
“Eli has had an amazing year,” said Dunham. “He has shown he’s one of the best runners in the country but he’s still relatively young in terms of competing at the national level. I think he’s ready for a big meet.”
Freshman Cole Decker (Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) will also make his outdoor national meet debut. He narrowly missed all-American honors in cross country in the fall and was the league runner-up in the 10,000 meters. Decker comes in with the seventh-fastest time in the 10,000-meters (29:59.31) and is the only freshman in the 20-athlete field.
“It’s always exciting to get to nationals as a freshman,” said Dunham. “But Cole has bigger goals than just being there. He has one of the fastest times in the country and he could really make some noise.”
Senior Josh Fleming (Caseyville, Collinsville HS) is capping off a big season with his first appearance at the national championships. Fleming garnered three all-conference citations as a senior, including a conference championship in the discus. He enters the national meet ranked 15th in that event.
“What a graet way for Josh to end his career,” said Dunham. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch him this year. He’s gotten better every single week and he has a lot of momentum right now. He beat some of the guys ranked ahead of him last week and he has a great opportunity coming up.”
Collegiate finale for Coleman—One of Central’s most decorated women’s track and field athletes, senior Felicia Coleman (Houston, Texas, J. Frank Dobie HS), will don her Central uniform for the last time this weekend. Coleman swept the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the outdoor conference championships and was voted the team’s most valuable performer for the second consecutive year. Already a three-time all-American, Coleman qualified with the 10th seed in the 200 meters (24.61) and the 18th seed in the 100 meters (12.14).
“Felicia has had a stellar career and has been a mainstay of the women’s program for four years,” said Dunham. “Her goal and our goal is for her this weekend to be a two-time all-American.”
The Central women tied for 20th in 2012 and have 10 top-25 national team finishes.
Meet schedule for Central athletes
Thursday, May 23
2:30 p.m. – Decathlon, 100 meters (Larson)
4:45 p.m. – Men’s 1,500 meters prelims (Horton)
5:10 p.m. – Men’s discus (Fleming)
5:45 p.m. – Women’s 200 meters prelims (Coleman)
6 p.m. – Men’s long jump (Larson)
7:05 p.m. – Men’s 10,000 meters (Decker)
Friday, May 24
2 p.m. – Decathlon, 110-meter hurdles (Larson)
6:30 p.m. – Women’s 100 meters (prelims) (Coleman)
Saturday, May 25
3 p.m. – Men’s 1,500 meters (Horton)
4 p.m. – Women’s 100 meters (Coleman)
5:10 p.m. – Women’s 200 meters (Coleman)
5:55 p.m. – Men’s 5,000 meters (Horton)