11 NCAA Div. III individual championships
2015 Iowa Conference indoor finish: 2nd
2015 Iowa Conference outdoor finish: 2nd
2015 NCAA Div. III indoor finish: 13th (tie)
2015 NCAA Div. III outdoor finish: N/A
2015 NCAA Div. III indoor national ranking: 23rd
2015 NCAA Div. III outdoor national ranking: NR
2015 NCAA Div. III indoor qualifiers : 5 - Abi Davis (60-meters, 200-meters, 4x400 meter relay); Allie McBroom (4x400 meter relay); Camie Kibbee (4x400 meter relay); Kate Patton (4x400 meter relay); Meredith Zimmerman (60-meter hurdles);
2015 NCAA Div. III outdoor qualifiers: 5 - Abi Davis (100-meters, 200-meters, 4x400 meter relay); Ashlee Downs (4x400 meter relay); Allie McBroom (4x400 meter relay); Camie Kibbee (4x400 meter relay); Meredith Zimmerman (100-meter hurdles);
Returning NCAA qualifiers: 3 - Abi Davis, Ashlee Downs, Kate Patton
Letterwinners returning: 25
Coming off a season that saw the Central College women’s track squad take second at the outdoor Iowa Conference meet, followed by a third-place finish at this year’s league indoor meet Feb. 27-27, the Dutch are vying to remain near the top of the conference.
“I felt like we took a big step forward last year,” Dunham said. “We are in a great conference with great teams. It’s a challenge every year to finish in the top three and that will be our goal once again.”
Central returns 26 letterwinners from last year’s squad and two athletes that competed at the NCAA Division III Championships.
“I think our team will be similar to last year in terms of depth and talent,” Dunham said. “We didn’t graduate a lot of our women so we are in a good place this season.”
Dunham has strived for a league title from day one.
“My goal since I started here has been to win a conference championship,” he said. “We will continue to strive for that, but it will be a process. Winning championships isn’t easy, and we have great teams in our league.”
Senior Abi Davis leads a group of sprinters poised for a big season. At last year’s NCAA meet, Davis was 11th in both the 4x400-meter relay and the 100 meters, while taking 13th in the 200. She fared even better in 2014, placing second nationally in the 200 and fourth in the 100.
Senior Ashlee Downs and sophomore Kate Patton will join Davis in all three sprinting distances. Downs, an all-conference performer, was a part of the outdoor 4x400 relay team with Davis and Patton, a 2015 indoor All-American, will contend for an outdoor spot as well.
“All three of these runners are coming off national championship experience,” Dunham said. “They’ve all been at the big show so they are going to provide great leadership this season.”
Senior Monica Ruiz is a returning member of last year’s conference champion 4x100-meter relay team.
“Monica is a captain for us,” Dunham said. “She has already set a new personal best at a meet this indoor season and I know she will continue to improve.”
In the 400 meters, sophomore Regan Engleman will look to make a splash while classmates Trenetta Blocker and Anna Shaw will assist in the 100 and 200 meters.
Dunham expects big things from his sprinters.
“I think this will be one of our stronger areas,” he said. “We’ve got a lot returning and a lot of good leadership. I think we are going to see some really good things come out of our sprints.”
With the graduation of several key jumpers over the last few years, the Dutch are seeking underclassmen to fill those roles.
“We’re in the process of developing new jumpers,” Dunham said. “We are taking some sprinters and turning them into jumpers.”
Leading the way is Downs, the defending league long jump champ.
“Ashlee is one of the leaders of our jumps group,” Dunham said. “She has great experience and provides great leadership for our younger jumpers.”
In the high jump, sophomore Emma Drees tied for seventh place outdoors at the 2015 conference outdoor meet. She’s also a candidate for the long jump.
“Emma can excel in both of those events,” Dunham said. “I don’t think we’ve seen her full potential yet. She’s extra-motivated to do well during the outdoor season.”
Patton and sophomore Maddie Smith could also factor in the long jump.
Dunham is also impressed by what he has seen from Blocker this year in the triple jump.
“She showed great improvements during the indoor season,” he said.
Three-time letterwinner Abby Saladino is back in the 100-meter hurdles and is the most experienced hurdler.
“We’re relying on her to be that veteran the younger athletes can look up to,” Dunham said.
Smith has shown signs of improvement in the 100 hurdles as well.
The Dutch are especially limited in the 400-meter hurdles, as Drees and sophomore Merissa Larson are the only returners to have run the race in college.
Dunham won’t let the lack of experience be an excuse.
“We’re young in the hurdles area this year,” Dunham said. “But I think it’s still an area we can strive in and score some points.”
Leading the way in the middle distance events, is junior Kasey Wiedmaier, who was named all-conference last year after taking third in the 4x800 relay.
“Kasey will be a big factor in the middle distance events for us this season,” Dunham said.
“She has really proved she belongs over the last year or so.”
Senior Elin Phipps was all-conference in 2013 in both the 800 and 1,500 meters, but injuries have held her back the last two seasons.
Junior Jennifer Zouette will see action as well.
“Jennifer put in great work this fall during the cross country season,” Dunham said. “I am confident that she will reap the rewards from that hard work.”
Coming off a fourth-place finish in the cross country conference meet last fall, the Dutch distance runners will look to use that as a springboard for the track season.
“I think with the development our women’s distance program has been taking in the recent past, we have a good chance to make some noise this season,” Dunham said.
Many of the top distance athletes in the league graduated, so Dunham thinks now is a good time to pounce.
“It’s kind of a changing of the guard at the conference level,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but we certainly have some talent.”
Sophomore Holly McKinney is looking to ride her momentum from cross country season this fall, coming off a 13th-place finish at the NCAA Division III Central Regional. McKinney took second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the league outdoor meet last season.
“I think Holly is coming off a fantastic outdoor season last year in the steeplechase and she’s very confident from her cross country season,” Dunham said. “I’m expecting her to continue to improve.”
Junior Andie Arthofer returns after finishing third in the 4x800 relay at the league meet last year. She also took fourth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“Andie is a great leader for us in the distance events,” Dunham said. “She’s coming off a great year and I’m excited about her potential this season.”
Sophomores Kendra Conforti, Abby Fyfe, Evie Kammeyer, Caitlin Novak as well as juniors Maleah Earnest and Cassidy Gornick and senior Heidi Heckenberg will provide additional depth.
Central returns the conference hammer throw champion Lorell Stuht who also won the weight throw indoors this spring.
“Lorell will be fighting for a national qualifier in the hammer,” he said. “She has to continue to focus on improving and cleaning things up with her technique.”
Two other returning letterwinners will also look to make some noise in the throws, senior April McCarthy and sophomore Brooke Napolitano. McCarthy dabbles in all four throwing events while Napolitano is a discus and hammer specialist.
“The throws are an area where we have some really strong athletes,” Dunham said. “I think they developed well in the fall and are ready to go.”
Drees, Larson and junior Morgan Koenigs will head a group of heptathlon contenders.
“I think we are just beginning to see these athletes turn the corner,” Dunham said. “Our multi athletes will be strong as always and barring injury, I think we have a good chance to score some big points there.”
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.