15 NCAA Div. III individual championships
2015 Iowa Conference indoor finish: 1st (tie)
2015 Iowa Conference outdoor finish: 1st
2015 NCAA Div. III indoor finish: 55th (tie)
2015 NCAA Div. III outdoor finish: 56th (tie)
2015 NCAA Div. III indoor national ranking: 8th
2015 NCAA Div. III outdoor national ranking: 17th
2015 NCAA Div. III indoor qualifiers: 7 - Cole Decker (5,000-meter run); Spencer Hammack (distance medley relay); Drew Jackson (distance medley relay); Eli Horton (mile, distance medley relay); Eric Larson (heptathlon); Logan Mulford (high jump); Jamie Vander Veer (mile, distance medley relay)
2015 NCAA Div. III outdoor qualifiers: 4 - Cole Decker (10,000-meter run), Eli Horton (5,000-meter run), Eric Larson (decathlon), Dan Roemerman (110-meter hurdles)
Returning NCAA qualifiers: 3 - Cole Decker, Logan Mulford, Dan Roemerman
Letterwinners lost: 18
Letterwinners returning: 38
The Central College outdoor men’s track and field team is coming off its fifth Iowa Conference championship in the past seven seasons and capturing another is again the objective in 2016.
The Dutch return a 39 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished 56th at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships. Central graduated a number of top point-scorers, but is coming off an Iowa Conference indoor title in February.
Headlining the returners is senior All-American Cole Decker, the eighth-place finisher in last year’s NCAA 10,000 meters and the 2016 league indoor track MVP.
“Our number one goal is to strive for conference championships, both individually and as a team,” coach Joe Dunham said. “That will continue to be our focus this season. We have a great league and it will be a big challenge.”
Dunham knows the importance of health in contending for a title.
“We’re really hoping we can stay away from injuries,” he said. “Our health will determine how great of a season this is for us.”
The Dutch return a plethora of successful sprinters, including good mix of seniors and underclassmen
Senior Austin Roberts and sophomore Blake Morgan were a part of the conference third-place 4x400-meter relay squad in 2015.
“Austin has always been a top sprinter for us,” Dunham said. “He’s in great shape, has been working really hard this fall and is good to go. Blake has really emerged this fall in the way I was hoping he would,”
Senior Cole Ebel suffered an injury-plagued 2015 season after finishing sixth in the 100-meter dash in 2014.
He’s coming off injuries but he’s always been a staple sprinter that we can rely on,” Dunham said. “I hope to see him shine in his last season.”
Dunham expects big things from senior Alex Bleadorn in the 200 and 400 meters.
“Alex has made a huge jump this year and we have big goals for him going into the season,” Dunham said.
Junior Gunnar Methlie and sophomores Hunter Howe and Trevor Ruiz are options at all three sprinting distances.
Dunham thinks his sprinters can open some eyes this year.
“I felt like this fall was the best we’ve ever had for our sprints,” he said. “They are in very good condition right now and we’re going to surprise some people this season.”
The duo of junior high jumper Logan Mulford and sophomore long jumper Justin Wimbish lead Central in the jumping events.
“We’ve got a good group of guys who are very talented,” Dunham said. “They work very hard and put a lot into what they’re doing.”
Mulford was a national qualifier in last year’s NCAA Division III indoor meet, placing 15th after fourth in the conference outdoor meet.
“Logan is very fit and toned right now,” Dunham said. “He is looking great and I’m expecting big things out of him.”
Wimbish notched a third-place outdoor finish in the long jump.
“Justin is someone that we will be leaning heavily on this season,” Dunham said.
Dunham also cited juniors Zac Quick and Joe Kotz in the long jump and triple jump as names to watch.
“They have made huge improvements this off season and are in a position to really help this team,” he said. “They are fully committed to the goals we have and it is exciting to see their hard work pay off.
Dunham is expecting the hurdles to continue to be an area of strength for the Dutch.
“Our hurdles group is very talented,” he said. “I think we have a chance to score a lot of points with the hurdles.”
Dan Roemerman, the school 100-meter hurdles record-holder, finished ninth at last year’s NCAA meet, narrowly missing all-America status. He’s a three-time all-conference honoree.
“Dan is one of the best hurdlers in the country,” Dunham said. “He was abroad this fall so he’s coming in and getting his feet wet, There’s going to be a little bit of a transition for him, but I have no doubt he will be ready to compete.”
Sophomore Tate Jensen was third in the league in the 400-meter hurdles as a rookie.
“Tate is a young man that we have big goals for outdoors in the 400 hurdles,” Dunham said . “He’s also going to play a major role in some sprints.”
Sophomore Hunter Pollpeter figures to make an impact in the 100-meter hurdles, as well.
The middle-distance events are an area of uncertainty. Central will have to lean heavily on newcomers.
“We’re going to be very young in the middle-distance area,” Dunham said. “We graduated some talented runners but we have brought in a large freshman class. I am still learning about this group and what they will look like moving forward.”
Sophomore Mark Fairley, brings some much-needed experience. He was on the conference champion 4x800-meter relay squad.
“Mark will be one of our top middle-distance guys,” Dunham said. “I’m really excited about his season.”
Senior Kyle Nuehring has been hampered by injuries for much of his four years at Central, but has flashed potential such as placing second in the 1,500 meters and third in the 800 meters at the 2013 conference meet.
“It’s been very difficult watching injuries ruin his career because he’s so talented,” Dunham said. “He’s finally coming back around. He’s ready to move on to that next level.”
Sophomores Taylor Donner, Nick Guzman and Cole Simon are candidates for the 800- and 1,500-meter races.
Decker and the Dutch distance runners will look to carry over the momentum from the fall’s cross country season. Central made its fourth straight appearance at the NCAA Division III national meet, placing 25th.
“I think we will have some great things come from our distance group,” Dunham said. “They’re working hard and in great shape. I have no reason to believe we won’t have a lot of success.”
Decker, an NCAA all-American in both cross country and track and field, placed 25th in the cross country championships in the fall. The Des Moines native was the league champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters last season.
“Cole is very healthy right now,” Dunham said. “It’s all about progress with him and finding the right meet for him to be able to compete at a high level.”
One of those meets will likely be the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays April 14-15 in Walnut, Calif., considered one of the nation’s premiere meets for distance events.
Junior Isaac Steffensmeier was on Decker’s heels in the outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters, taking second in both events at the conference meet last season.
“Isaac is a solid distance runner for us,” Dunham said. “He’s someone that we will lean heavily on at the conference meet.”
Juniors Karl Weaver and Kyle Schelling, as well as sophomores Tanner Rathje, Jeremy Caracci, Ben Stelk and Jon Specht will compete in the longer races.
Senior Kody Dailey, the back-to-back conference champion in the javelin throw, returns to lead a group of throwers that has Dunham excited for the upcoming season.
“I’ve been watching our throwers pretty intently and it’s exciting to see them improving the way they have,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent there and they are working harder than they ever have.”
Dailey is one of the best javelin throwers in the country, according to Dunham.
“Kody will have big goals this spring,” he said. “He’s worked extremely hard to get himself ready and will certainly carry the torch for us.”
In the discus, junior Ben Miller returns after taking third at last season’s conference meet.
“He’s put in a lot of work in over the offseason to give himself ready,” Dunham said. “He’s got a lot of talent."
Senior Trent Smothers took sixth in the shot put at the conference meet a year ago.
“He’s used the indoor season to get himself ready after the football season,” Dunham said. “I think he’s going to really excel this season.
Junior Chris Davis is a hammer throw standout but also does the javelin and discus throws.
“I think the hammer is going to be awesome,” Dunham said. “He’s a speed guy and that’s what the hammer is all about.”
Juniors Jordan Sanders and Jake Webb could figure in a variety of throwing events.
Central returns three letterwinners in the decathlon, including sophomore Ryan Kruse who was fourth in the league last spring.
"We have guys very committed to what they’re doing,” Dunham said. “They are talented athletes and we should be strong in the multi-events.”
Sophomore Reese Iversen and senior Jaemin Powell also return. Iversen was sixth in the conference.
The 2016 outdoor season opens at home with the Central Invitational April 1-2 in Pella. The conference meet and the NCAA Division III Championships will both be staged in Waverly, on May 12-14 and May 26-28, respectively.
“We’re going to be shooting for another Iowa Conference title,” Dunham said. It’s going to be our biggest goal. We will practice and train to try and win another championship.