What’s left of the Wisconsin-La Crosse men’s indoor track & field team’s road to a potential repeat Division III national championship will look largely familiar to the Eagles.
Going into this weekend’s DIII Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championships in Lincoln, Neb., each of the four highest-ranked men’s teams in the country are members of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
La Crosse boasts one of DIII indoor men’s track’s most storied programs, having won 16 national championships, including at least shares of nine just since 2001. Six of those titles all came in a row between 2001 and '06.
This year, though, the Eagles are far from being the only team from Wisconsin, let alone from around the rest of the country, in with a great chance of winning the men’s national indoor team title.
UW-L is at the top of the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association DIII rankings. However, only behind in the second, third and fourth spots, respectively, are UW-Eau Claire, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh.
Results fell in a hardly dissimilar line Feb. 28 and Mar. 1 at the WIAC Indoor Championship in Whitewater, Wis. Scoring 189 team points, the Eagles won their 13th consecutive league title that weekend and UW-L’s 39th in school history, with the latter being a WIAC record.
The Blugolds from Wisconsin-Eau Claire placed second in that meet with 131 points, while the Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans came third with 109 and the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks finished fourth with 99.
Indeed, WIAC schools will look to take over this weekend at Lincoln’s Bob Devaney Sports Center. Twenty male student-athletes at the meet will represent Wisconsin-Lacrosse, and that’s the most going from any school that will be represented at the meet, with Oshkosh sending 13 and both Eau Claire and Whitewater sending 11.
Wisconsin-Platteville and Wisconsin-Stout are both sending four, while Wisconsin-Stevens Point is sending two. Wisconsin-River Falls is the only WIAC school that won’t be represented at the men’s event in Lincoln.
It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that neither of La Crosse’s two individual indoor national champions from last year return. Isaac Vasquez, who won last year’s men’s indoor triple jump title, and Aric Hoeschen (400 meters) have both moved on following their time with the Eagles.
Some student-athletes from other WIAC schools, however, have the best numbers in their events this year of any entrants in the 2014 national championships.
Eau Claire junior Dennis Thurgood and Whitewater sophomore Corey Broussard have the best men’s 60-meter dash time (6.75 seconds) this year going into the meet. In the men’s heptathlon, no entrant in this year’s national meet has put up a better score so far in 2014 than Eau Claire junior Brandon Zarnoth’s 5,409 posted at one point earlier this season.
UW-Oshkosh’s men have the best recorded men’s distance medley time of any four-man group entered into the national championships. Junior Kenny Halloran, senior Corey Wilch, senior Brett DeNure and freshman McKena Ramos achieved a time of 9:47.47 in that event earlier this indoor season.
North Central (Ill.), which won three consecutive national championships between 2010 and '12, currently sits in fifth in the USTFCCCA rankings. The Cardinals are sending 11 male student-athletes to Lincoln.
In order, the men’s teams from Mount Union, Tufts, Wartburg, Buffalo State and Wisconsin-Stout then round out the national top 10 heading into the national championships.