By Nikki Sherrill, Athletic Communications and Media Intern
GULF SHORES, Ala. – (Results) The opening day of the 2017 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships crowned eight individual national champions, each from different institutions, on Thursday. The list included a back-to-back winner in the women's javelin, the brother of a former national champion and a titlist who attempted to defeat the NAIA meet record. The event is being held at the Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Ala., for the fourth-straight year.
The first title of the day went to Raven Kelly of St. Francis (Ill.) who took home the championship in the women's hammer throw. Kelly threw a 61.33 result to claim the championship. This was the senior's first title in her four-year NAIA career, and the Fighting Saints' first-ever women's title.
Also on the field for the women was a repeat champion as Seri Geisler of Valley City State (N.D.) claimed her second-straight national championship in the women's javelin. Geisler threw a 52.68 this season to better her title-winning performance last season when she went 51.37. Geisler now owns all of Valley City State's national championships.
Another women's field event saw an attempt at the meet record after already claiming the title. Danielle Wojciechowski of Bethel (Ind.) already claimed her national title for 2017 in the women's pole vault, but decided to take an attempt at breaking the NAIA meet record. Wojciechowski won her event with a 4.0m mark. After three attempts at the meet record of 4.16, Wojciechowski ended with a final successful mark of 4.0 to take home her first-ever outdoor title.
The final women's field event saw the 2017 long jump title go to Columbia's (Mo.) Abby Stricker. After nearly a four hour competition, Stricker was able to earn the national championship with a 59.1 distance. The 2017 title was Stricker's first-ever individual title at the outdoor event. This year's competition included 47 women long jumpers.
On the men's side, only three individual national titles were won on the first day. In the field events, the first title went to Cody Boellstorff of Concordia (Neb.). Boellstorff earned the title in the men's hammer throw after hitting a 64.80 throw. In 2015, Cole Boellstorff, the brother of Cody, won the event with a 62.66.
The men's javelin for this season went to Pancho Sardano of Eastern Oregon. Sardano hit a 67.5 mark to take the 2017 championship. With the championship, Sardano will be taking back the first men's javelin championship to the state of Oregon since 2003 when Oregon Tech's Nick Bakke hit a 63.82. This is Eastern Oregon's eighth individual men's title in program history.
The only running events scored on Thursday were the 10,000 meter races that concluded the first day's action. On the women's side, Ellie Willging of Saint Xavier (La.) took the women's side after running a 36.28.78. For the men, Jackson Thomas of Bacone (Okla.) took the 30:14.89 win just in front of William Carey's (Miss.) Geoffrey Kipchumba who was going for a three-peat.
Team scoring leaders at the end of the first day of competition saw Concordia (Neb.) ahead in both men's and women's. For the men, the Bulldogs hold 20 points, 10 points ahead of Bacone who is second. In the women's division, the Bulldogs have 19 points to their name so far with Wayland Baptist (Texas) close behind in second with 17 points.
The 66th annual men's event and 37th annual women's event will pick back up on Friday with the decathlon at 10 a.m. CDT and the heptathlon at 10:30 a.m. Field events begin at 1 p.m. and running events get kick started at 1:30 p.m.
Thursday (May 25) national champions
Men's 10,000 meters – Jackson Thomas, Bacone (Okla.)
Women's 10,000 meters – Ellie Willging, Saint Xavier (Ill.)
Men's hammer throw – Cody Boellstorff, Concordia (Neb.)
Women's hammer throw – Raven Kelly, St. Francis (lll.)
Men's javelin – Poncha Saldana, Eastern Oregon
Women's javelin – Seri Geisler, Valley City State (N.D.)
Women's long jump – Abby Stricker, Columbia (Mo.)
Women's pole vault – Danielle Wojciechowski, Bethel (Ind.)