Story by Chad Waller, Director of Communications & Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Live Video Streaming) (Live Scoring) (Schedule) The 65th annual Men’s and 36th annual Women’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Outdoor Track and Field National Championships will take place in Gulf Shores, Ala., and run from May 26 - 28. The Gulf Shores (Ala.) and Orange Beach Sports Commission, in partnership with the city in Gulf Shores, will serve as hosts for the third-straight year. Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium will welcome over 150 men’s and women’s programs.
Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting the events on www.NAIANetwork.com. A subscription package to view the entire three-day event is $14.95. For more information, including how to register and sign-up for an account, click here.
Seventy-one events will take place over the three-day span. The national championships begin at 10 a.m. CDT Thursday with the men’s decathlon (100-meters, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400-meters) and women’s hammer throw. The women’s heptathlon (100-meter hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, 200-meters) will begin at 10:30 a.m.
The championship opening ceremonies are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, while the awards ceremony will be Saturday at approximately 6:50 p.m. The top eight athletes in each event and top eight relay teams will earn team points and achieve NAIA ASICS All-America status.
Concordia (Neb.) is looking to repeat as team national champions on the men’s side after earning its first championship in 2015. The Bulldogs edged Wayland Baptist (Texas) by a narrow 59-55 score. The title came down to the 4x400-meter relay. Concordia’s Kregg Einspahr took home NAIA Coach of the Year honors. Junior Zach Lurz, who claimed the 2015 Most Valuable Performer (scored most points) trophy, is one of 11 Bulldogs who qualified this year. Lurz is ranked first in the Shot Put and in the top five in the Discus and Hammer Throws.
A program to finish national runner-up in each of the last two seasons and earn the 2010 national championship, Wayland Baptist sends 10 athletes and two more relay squads. Four Pioneers are ranked first in their respective event.
Indiana Tech qualified the highest amount of male athletes with 25. Doane (Neb.) and Marian (Ind.) are next in line by sending 20 each to Gulf Shores. Senior Kale Wolken of Doane returns in three events – including a No. 1 ranking in the decathlon – for the Tigers. Wolken earned the 2015 Harry Gill Men’s Outstanding Performer after he won his second-straight Decathlon title while also earning All-America status in the Long Jump and Javelin. He looks to become just the second NAIA athlete in history (since 1969) to win three-consecutive decathlon championships.
On the women’s side, Wayland Baptist is the defending national champion after a 91-66 victory over former member Oklahoma Baptist at the 2015 event. The Pioneers snapped the two-year reign of Indiana Tech. It was the third national championship in Wayland Baptist history and puts it No. 4 for the most titles.
Rochene Smith highlights a group of six athletes and two relay teams for Wayland Baptist. The sophomore is ranked first in both the 100-and-200-meter dashes.
Senior Molly Josephs of Missouri Baptist, who set a championship record in the 5,000-meter race walk with a time of 24:15.86, returns this year. Not surprisingly, she is ranked No. 1 in that event going into the 2016 national championships.
Doane and Siena Heights (Mich.) boast the most qualifying individuals with 20 apiece. Indiana Tech (19), Carroll (Mont.) (17) and Aquinas (Mich.) (16) are next on the list.
Gulf Shores, Ala., is the 22nd different city to host the championship event, which began in 1952 with men’s competition. Twenty-six different men’s teams have won at least one team national championship. Four teams have claimed at least four titles, led by former member Azusa Pacific with 15 total championships. On the women’s side, 14 different programs have won a national championship. Nine schools have at least a pair of championships, with former member Prairie View A&M (Texas) leading the way with nine titles.
For more information on the 2016 NAIA Men’s & Women’s Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, click here.