15 NCAA Div. III individual championships
PELLA—The Central College men’s track and field team won three individual titles and scored 121 points to win the 10-team Dutch Athletics Classic, while the women’s team won two and placed third with 81 points.
The Dutch men bested runner-up Baker University by 19 points, while Truman State scored 87 in third, followed by William Penn and Grand View with 84 and 83 points, respectively.
The Dutch women finished third behind Truman State, which scored 157 points, and Baker with 146.5. Grand View and Simpson rounded out the top five with 76 and 41 points, respectively.
“I’m really pleased with how we got after it,” coach Joe Dunham said. “It’s the first meet of the year, so there’s a long way to go, but that’s how we approach track. It’s a progression.
“But it was a good day for both our men and women.”
Personal bests add up to men’s title—Senior distance runner Austin O’Brien (Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) won the 3,000-meter run, junior multi-eventer Eric Larson (Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) was best in the 55-meter hurdles and senior thrower Steven Messerschmidt (Neola, Tri-Center HS) topped the charts in the weight throw to propel the Dutch to the team victory.
O’Brien finished more than 10 seconds ahead of the previous school record set by junior Eli Horton (Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) in the 3,000-meter run in 8:26.72, leading a charge similar to that of the Iowa Conference men’s cross country championship where Central finished 1-2-3 individually. Horton finished second in 8:33.57, also ahead of his previous best mark. Junior Drew Jackson (Johnston) and freshman Isaac Steffensmeier (St. Paul, Fort Madison HS) also scored for the Dutch in fourth and sixth place, respectively.
“It’s exciting that Austin ran well, especially because it’s the first year that the 3K is being contested at the national meet,” Dunham said. “Eli and Drew were right there, too. It’s exactly what we wanted to see.”
Larson cleared the 55-meter hurdles in 7.81 seconds, 0.11 seconds in front of the pack. Junior Conner Freeman (Urbandale) also scored with a fifth-place finish. Larson and Freeman both competed in the pole vault as well, placing fifth and ninth, respectively. Freeman vaulted to a career-best by more than one foot at 11-11.75.
“Conner made the finals in the hurdles and set a personal record in the pole vault,” Dunham said. “He was abroad last semester, so that says a lot about his dedication.”
Messerschmidt won the weight throw by four and one-fourth inches with a toss of 51-7, while junior Josh Tack (Hudson) put forth a career-best effort 47-4.25 and placed eighth. Sophomore Chris Davis (Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) upped his career-best mark by more than six feet with a throw of 44-0.75. Messerschmidt also finished runner-up in the shot put with a mark of 47-6.5.
Other top performances included multiple runner-up finishes. Freshman Logan Mulford (Mount Pleasant) finished runner-up in the high jump at 6-4.75, while sophomore Kyle Nuehring (Waukee) was second in the 1,000-meter run in 2:37.89. The Dutch 4x400-meter relay team of juniors LJ Lipscomb (Johnston) and Mason Zimmerman (Urbandale) and sophomores Spencer Hammack (Ottumwa) and Austin Roberts (Bloomfield, Davis HS) finished runner-up in 3:31.13. Lipscomb was also third in the 600-meter run in 1:25.01, while Roberts was fourth in the 400-meter dash in 52.98.
“We had some really good performances,” said Dunham. “We competed at a level that we expect to compete. We had multiple personal bests, which shows how hard we trained in the offseason and that we’re ready for the challenges ahead.
“It was an exciting day. It was a packed house and a great atmosphere. Our staff did a great job hosting this event in our great facility. It was a lot of fun.”
Added focus lends to women’s results—Sophomore Elin Phipps (Boone) finished two seconds off the school record in the 1,000-meter run en route to first place in 3:02.75. Phipps was also a member of the Central 4x400-meter relay team along with juniors Taylor Beckman (Panora, Panorama HS) and Camie Kibbee (Mason City) and sophomore Melanie Nielsen (Atlantic) that finished third in 4:16.52.
Junior Hillary Hotz (Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS), a multi-eventer who increased her focus on the high jump this season, cleared 5-5 for a personal record and first place.
“Elin and Hillary were prepared and it showed in the results,” said Dunham. “The added focus on specific events paid off today and it will down the road as well.”
Central had a collection of third-place finishes add to the team score. Freshman Kasey Wiedmaier (Indianola) was third in the 600-meter run in 1:45.21, while cross country teammate senior Daphne Baumgartner (Perry) was third in the one mile run in 5:47.28. Freshman Emma Drees (Waukee) placed third in the long jump with a leap of 15-1.5.
“Next week we will see quality opponents, especially conference schools,” Dunham said. “It’s a great opportunity to get better, which is our goal week in and week out.”
The classic is the beginning of seven straight weekends of competition for the Dutch. Next Central travels to Waverly for the Wartburg Select meet Friday and Saturday. Five women’s teams and four men’s teams are set to compete in multi-events Friday at 3 p.m. in Hoover Field House & Indoor Track. Last season the Dutch men placed fourth of five teams, while the women tied for fourth out of six teams.