Luther's Men Cross Country
© Wyatt Hill 2019

Preview American Rivers Indoor Conference Championships

 Ryan Bonthius-Regina-Wartburg ©Knights Athletics 2020

Ryan Bonthius-Regina-Wartburg
©Knights Athletics 2020

The 2020 American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) Indoor Track & Field Championships will take place Friday, February 28 – Saturday, February 29 in Decorah, Iowa with Luther College serving as host.

Courtesy American Rivers Conference, click here! Feature photo: Luther’s Men Cross Country© Wyatt Hill 2019

In 2019 the Nebraska Wesleyan women took back the title from Wartburg after winning the title in 2017. The Prairie Wolves and Knights have gone back and forth the last three years. Nebraska Wesleyan broke Wartburg’s streak of fourteen-straight Indoor titles in 2017. The final margin of victory in 2019 was a mere 3.0 points as NWU scored 181.5 points to Wartburg’s 178.5 points. Loras finished third with 156.5 points, and Dubuque came in fifth with 92. The A-R-C title marked NWU’s second since joining the conference in 2016.

In the latest United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national rankings released on Tuesday, February 25 Loras College owned the No. 5 spot. Dubuque enters the Championships ranked No. 10 nationally, while Wartburg checks in at No. 23.

In the USTFCCCA Central Region rankings, five A-R-C schools are ranked in the top-10. Wartburg leads the pack at No. 1 with Loras at No. 2, Dubuque at No. 4, Nebraska Wesleyan at No. 5, and Central at No. 8. The other four conference teams ranked within the top-25 of the Central Region as Buena Vista checked in at No. 12, Luther at No. 16, Coe at No. 21, and Simpson rounding it out at No. 22.

This years women’s events will feature 10 returning individual champions from 2019. Gabrielle Noland of Loras, the back-to-back reigning Most Valuable Track Performer, claimed titles the 60-meter dash (7.60) and the 400-meter title (57.51) a season ago. Noland’s 60-meter dash time last season broke the Conference Championships record of 7.71 set in 2012 by Wartburg’s Faith Burt and in 2016 by Central’s Abigail Davis. This season, Noland’s 60-meter dash time of 7.56 ranks No. 1 in NCAA Division III. Additionally, Noland ranks No.1 in the A-R-C and third in Division III with a 400-meter time of 57.18.

Dubuque’s Alison Beeman bested Noland in the 200-meter dash by just .01 one week ago, recording the top time in NCAA Division III at 24.49. Noland, at 24.50 ?ranks second in Division III. At the 2019 A-R-C Championships Beeman edged out Noland to claim gold, while the 2019 NCAA Championships saw Noland claim the title of National Champion and Beeman earning All-American honors with a third place finish. The two standout sprinters are sure to produce another epic finish at 2020 A-R-C championships.

Joining Beeman as a returing champion for the UD Spartans is Alyssa Skrove. A season ago she took home the top spot in the triple jump with a leap of 11.30 meters (37’1″). Skrove sits 16th in NCAA Division III in 2020 with a triple jump mark of 11.60 meters (38″ 0.75′).

Central junior Mary Gray is looking to make it three consecutive years winning the pentathlon. In 2019 she stood atop the podium with 3,352 points. She enters the meet leading the A-R-C with as season best point total of 3,280 on January 31 at the Wartburg College Select. The score currently sits 17th-best in the NCAA Division III.

Central’s Courtney Kruthoff returns to the 2020 field after taking first place in the high jump a season ago with a cleared height of 1.66 meters (5’5.25″). Kruthoff will have her work cut out for her this weekend as she ranks sixth in the A-R-C.

Nebraska Wesleyan’s Dayton Dolincheck sits atop NCAA Division III in the shot put with a mark of 14.40 meters (47’3″), recorded on January 30 at the 2020 Concordia (Neb.) Classic. She returns this season after claiming the A-R-C shot put title last season with a mark of 14.03 meters (46’0.5″).

2019 A-R-C pole vault champion, Molly Tolly of Nebraska Wesleyan owns the conference’s top mark (3.43 meters) heading into championship weekend. A season ago she won the title with a cleared height of 3.40 meters (11′ 1.75″).

Wartburg’s Carina Collet returns to the field in 2020 after taking home two individual titles in 2019, claiming the 3000-meter (9:57.83) and  5000-meter (17:26.12) runs.

The 1-mile run will feature returning champion, Cassidy Christopher of Wartburg. In 2019, Christopher crossed the finish line in a time of 5:12.60. Heading into this weekend’s championships, Christopher holds the ninth fastest time in the field.

Maggi Bjustrom joins teammates Collet and Christopher as a returning champion. Bjustrom ran to a time of 9.02 in the 60-meter hurdles a season ago, claiming the title. Bjustrom brings the A-R-C’s second fastest time (9.16) into the championships. Loras’ Elayna Bahl owns the top time at 8.96.

Also back in 2020 is Dubuque’s Jenna Heimark, the 2020 Most Valuable Field Performer. In 2019 Heimark scored 14 points for Dubuque with a second-place finish in the triple jump (11.16m) and a bronze medal in the pole vault (3.10m).

On the men’s side, 2019 saw the Wartburg Knights win their first outright title since 2014. The Knights collected 177 points at last year’s championships, besting second place Loras by 40.5 points. Nebraska Wesleyan followed in third place with 122 points, and Dubuque came in fourth with 104 points.

In the most recent USTFCCCA national polls, only the Loras Duhawks are ranked in the top-25, checking in at No. 3. The Duhawks have been ranked inside the top-5 all season and will look to continue their success at this year’s A-R-C Championships.

Six of the nine conference schools find themselves inside the top-10 of the USTFCCCA Central Region rankings entering this weekend. Wartburg leads the pack coming in at No. 2. Loras sits at No. 3, Nebraska Wesleyan at No. 4, Dubuque at No. 5, Simpson at No. 8, and Central checks in at No. 9. The other three league schools are ranked within the top-25 as Buena Vista sits at No. 15, Luther at No. 16, and Coe at No. 21.

Five individual men’s champions return to the track and field at this weekend’s A-R-C championships. 2019 Most Valuable Men’s Track Performer, Patrick Mikel of Loras returns in 2020. Mikel won two events last year, the 200 meter (47.93) and the 400 meter (22.01). Mikel’s 400-meter performance broke the Conference’s all-time record of 47.95, set by Mikel himself in 2019. The reigning 400-meter dash National Champion, Mikel once again owns the top time in Division III at 48.53, .26 seconds better than second place. The senior sprinter also owns Division III’s third best time in the 200-meter this season at 21.99.

Fellow Duhawk Ryan Rogers also won two events in 2019, including the 60-meter hurdles (8.32) and pole vault with a height of 4.46 meters (14’7.50″). Heading into the A-R-C championships, Rogers ranks fourth in the 55-meter hurdles (8.26) and first in the pole vault (4.54-m) among league competitors.

Wartburg’s Matt Heinzman took first in the one mile-run in 2019 with a time of 4:16.70. In 2020 Heinzman’s time of 4:20.86 ranks fourth-best in the A-R-C.

The Knights also return 2019 champions Caleb Appleton (3000-meter) and Riley Barrett (heptathlon) Appleton took home the 2019 title in a time of 8:34.62. Heading into this weekend’s championships he owns the fourth-best time. Barrett totaled 4,261 points to win the 2019 championship. He currently has a season-best point total of 4,380 to rank second in the A-R-C.

The titles in the 60-meter dash, 800-meter run, 5000-meter run high jump, long jump, triple jump, shot put, and the weight throw will see new champions in 2020, as there are no returning gold medal winners from 2019.