11 NCAA Div. III individual championships
The Central College women’s track and field team will have to find new ways to score after graduating its top performer in sprinter Felicia Coleman, who won four conference titles last year and qualified for the NCAA meet in three events.
Following titles in the 55-meter dash and 200-meter dash at the indoor league meet, Coleman won the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash at the outdoor. She earned all-America distinction by placing eighth in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Division III championships last March, allowing Central to tie for 58th in the national team standings.
“When you lose a great athlete and a great leader it’s hard,” sixth-year head coach Joe Dunham said. “Felicia was the epitome of a great student-athlete and she leaves a legacy that will stay strong. Many girls watched and learned from her and we’re excited about what the future holds.”
And what the future holds is a lot of promise.
Central returns 21 letterwinners from last year’s squad led that finished third at both the Iowa Conference indoor and outdoor meets, led by cross country all-conference performer junior Alyssa Eaves, who competed in a handful of distance events last year and finished third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the league outdoor championships. The Dutch also added sophomore transfer Abi Davis, a sprinter from Des Moines who finished third in the 55-meter dash for Loras at last year’s conference indoor meet and seventh in the 100-meter dash at the outdoor meet.
The Dutch take their mark Friday and Saturday at the Dutch Athletics Classic.
Filling Coleman’s blocks won’t be easy, but Dunham sees potential being realized among the sprinters. Junior co-captain Taylor Beckman has been a leader this offseason. Beckman was a member of multiple relay teams, including Central’s 4x400-meter quad that finished runner-up at both league meets. Junior Camie Kibbee earned all-conference distinction after her third-place finish in the outdoor 400-meter dash, while junior Allie McBroom and sophomores Melanie Nielsen and Monica Ruiz are all in position to contribute.
“Camie is primed for an excellent season,” said Dunham. “It’s difficult to earn all-league recognition in sprints with the strength of other teams in our league. Melanie is improving and Allie has a lot of talent, as does Monica.
“We’re excited about the future and what it holds for this group.”
Narrowed focus may be the recipe for success in the jumps, said Dunham. In previous years Dutch jumpers have competed in additional events, but some athletes are pinpointing specific events. Junior Hillary Hotz was a multi-eventer last year, but will make the high jump her specialty.
“Jumps are an area we need to continue to grow,” Dunham said. “It’ll be good for Hillary to focus on one event. It’s exciting to see how she’s developed.”
Beckman will use her sprinter speed to aid her long and triple jump, while multi-event freshmen Emma Drees of Waukee and Morgan Koenigs of Mapleton will compete in long and high jumps. Junior hurdler McKenna Zimmerman will also try her hand at the triple jump.
“Taylor had a great start to this event last season and she can do it again,” said Dunham. “Morgan is very competitive and brings an added element to this team, while Emma is a talented multi-eventer.”
While their triplet brother, Mason, competes in sprints for the Dutch men’s squad, juniors McKenna and Meredith Zimmerman are the staples of Dutch hurdling for the women. McKenna finished sixth in the 55-meter hurdles at the league indoor meet, while Meredith was seventh in the 100-meter hurdles at the outdoor. Central also runs junior Kaitlyn Gillett and sophomore Abby Saladino in the hurdles, as well as multi-eventer Drees.
The group will focus on the 55-meter and 100-meter hurdles, with the potential to add the 400-meter hurdles to their repertoire.
“The Zimmermans are phenomenal hurdlers and are vastly improved,” Dunham said. “They will be in the hunt at the conference meets. Kaitlyn is a sprinter who will run hurdles and can score for us, while Abby did well this offseason and is competition ready. Emma is in the mix as well.”
As was the case on the men’s side, cross country team members greatly impacts the middle distance events, which thrills Dunham. All eight athletes in prime position competed for the Dutch last fall. Senior Amanda Dunkin finished seventh in the one mile run at the conference indoor meet, while sophomore Elin Phipps was second and third in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter runs, respectively, at the outdoor meet. Dunkin and sophomore Molly Bramble were also members of the fourth-place distance medley relay team at the indoor meet.
Additionally, Dunham noted junior Sarah Mueller and four freshmen—Kasey Wiedmaier of Indianola, Leaha Earnest of Hedrick, Lexi DesPlanque of Newton and Andie Arthofer of Dubuque—will make some noise at the middle distances.
“Cross country crosses over here and it helps,” said Dunham. “Amanda is a veteran and a smart runner, as are Sarah and Elin, who is battling back from injuries. Kasey and Andie are special talents who are transition to the track, which will be fun to watch.”
The crossover continues in the distance events, led by cross country standout Eaves. Cross country teammates senior Daphne Baumgartner, senior Emma Jo Nelson and sophomore Gabi Wilson will also contribute in these events.
“Alyssa is a clear scorer here,” Dunham said. “She’s talented, she worked very hard this winter and she’s determined to run well. Gabi is battling back from injury, while Emma and Daphne contributed a lot on the cross country course. It’ll be a great year for our distance runners.”
The distance runners will focus on the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs, and may also compete in middle distance events.
Dunham sees throws as an opportunity for someone to step up. The Dutch are young, as their veteran thrower is sophomore April McCarthy and behind her is freshman Lorell Stuht of Loveland, Colo., who competed as an outside hitter for the Central volleyball team this fall. Both will throw the weight, discus and hammer, while Stuht joins junior Whitney Pavlat in the javelin throw as well.
McCarthy placed sixth in the weight throw at the conference indoor meet, while Pavlat placed seventh in the javelin throw at the outdoor meet.
“We need to continue to develop in this area,” said Dunham. “We have talented young throwers, but someone needs to take the reins. April has a great attitude and work ethic. I expect big things from her. Lorell is very athletic and I’m excited to see her in action.”
Central’s multi-event competitors are spread across all other areas. Gillette finished fifth in the indoor pentathlon and ninth in the outdoor heptathlon. She’s joined by Drees and Koenigs, with the potential for other athletes to try their hands at the multi.
“I’m excited about this group,” Dunham said. “They all have the ability and drive to do some great things. I’m excited to see how they progress.”
Dunham heads up an eight-person coaching staff with associate head coach Jim Fuller. Fuller is in his second year on staff after 24 seasons as head coach at NCAA Division III Northern State (S.D.). The remaining seven assistant coaches have a combined 34 years coaching experience at Central and more than 60 years total.
“I’m really blessed to have this coaching staff,” said Dunham. “Coaching at Central is a little piece of heaven. Our coaches are so smart and experienced; I learn from them every day. I’m excited to have them all on board. It’ll be great to see how they help shape this team."
Brenda Fuller is in her second year as the throws coach at Central, while Tyler Schiferl is in his fifth coaching the pole vault. Scott Tjeerdsma and Allan Walz are each in their sixth season coaching hurdles and throws, respectively. Stephen Fyfe is in his 14th year at Central and currently works with the women’s distance group as well as the women’s cross country team. Jonathan Graupmann is in his first year coaching sprints and jumps.
Serving as both the men’s and women’s cross country head coach and men’s and women’s track and field head coach has its challenges, but like a good runner, Dunham takes it all in stride.
“There’s a lot more moving parts in track,” Dunham said. “I lean on the rest of the coaching staff and give them freedom to coach. Our goal is to make sure every student-athlete is cared for and is positioned for success. And it gets done.
“I love track and couldn’t be more excited for the season.”
The Dutch compete on a Mondotrack six-lane, 200-meter indoor track, installed in early 2009 in H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse. The same Mondotrack was the surface of choice for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as well as the 2012 Olympic Games in London and is designed to provide optimal traction and greater contact area. Central’s eight-lane, 400-meter BSS 1000 polyurethane track was installed in 2007 in Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium. It incorporates wider turns, dual runways and a two-way pole vault runway.
“Facilities at Central are second to none,” said Dunham. “The Mondo surface is considered the gold standard in track. It’s a great indoor facility that enables us to compete at a championship level. It’s a testament to president (Mark) Putnam and the entire administration. It shows commitment to our program.”
In addition, Central recently added a new Daktronics video display scoreboard on the north end of Schipper Stadium. Funded by PPI (Precision Pulley & Idler, Inc.) of Pella, it is among the largest video displays in Division III.
“I’m very excited about the scoreboard addition to the outdoor stadium,” Dunham said. “It’s a great thing for the entire department and provides fans with an even better experience.
“This year is going to be a lot of fun.”
Central runs a competitive schedule year in and year out and this year is no different. While the dates mirror the 2013 schedule, the Dutch added a couple tune-up events, as well as some different locations and facilities.
“I always schedule with the entire coaching staff,” said Dunham. “I’m excited about the chance to see new venues. We’re running in some great facilities without having to travel much, which is helpful when the meets are so lengthy. We’re excited and ready to get rolling.”
In addition to the new venues, Central will run at Luther for the first time in the Dunham era. The Norse are set to host both the indoor and outdoor conference championships at Decorah.
“It will be a new experience,” Dunham said. “Competing at Luther will be an opportunity for us to run at a different facility. We’re excited to compete. Our focus is winning the conference championship, regardless of where it’s held, and advancing to the national meet.
“That’s our goal again this year.”
The indoor regular season opens Friday and Saturday at Pella and concludes at the Iowa Conference Championships Feb. 28-March 1 at Decorah. The NCAA Division III Championships are scheduled for March 14-15 at Lincoln, Neb.
The outdoor season kicks off with the Washington University in St. Louis Invitational March 28-29 and, like the indoor season, culminates at the league meet May 8-10 at Decorah. The national meet is set for May 22-24 at Delaware, Ohio.