Oh, What a Weekend

Oh, What a Weekend

ELMHURST, Ill. – The collegiate outdoor track & field campaign began nearly three months ago with tremendous expectations and promise. While there were no shortage of notable achievements throughout The Summit League during the 12-week season, few meets if any compared to the excitement that was NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., this past weekend.

Admittedly we are biased, but it is difficult not to be when one considers that 14 league athletes combined for six second-team and four first-team All-America performances—the most such performances (10) ever recorded at nationals in Summit League history.

Every performance was incredible in its own right, given the magnitude of the moment and how each Summit League student-athlete responded to it, but South Dakota's Chris Nilsen seems as good a starting point as any.

The sophomore from Kansas City, Mo., was the favorite going into the men's pole vault competition and did not disappoint, hoisting the second national title of his young career after breaking a 22-year-old NCAA Championship record with a meet-best 19' 1.5" (5.83m) vault. Putting him in perspective, Nilsen became the sixth Summit Leaguer to win an outdoor national championship and the first vaulter since Bethany (Buell) Firsick of South Dakota in 2013. Additionally, Nilsen is now one of only three track & field competitors in league history to boast two career national titles.

Thanks to Nilsen, the Coyote men got on the board with 10 points and finished tied for 27th. On the women's side, North Dakota State placed 28th on the team leaderboard—the second-best team finish in league history—thanks to a pair of fifth-place, four-point performances from Maddy Nilles and Alyssa Olin.

First up was Nilles, who stepped into the hammer circle and cranked a personal-best toss that soared 218' 1" (66.49m). With her first-team All-America showing, it is hard to imagine that Nilles was making her NCAA Championship debut. For Olin, this was the senior's second-straight appearance at the NCAAs and Historic Hayward Field. A second-team All-American last season, Olin one-upped herself on Thursday after blasting a javelin that sailed 180' 6" (55.02m)—good enough for fifth place.

Because of their performances in Eugene, both Nilles and Olin recorded the top finishes and marks in their respective event categories on The Summit League's all-time NCAA Championship performance list.

North Dakota State was not the only Summit League team to place on the women's leaderboard. So did Omaha, who earned its highest finish ever at NCAA Championships (T-67th) thanks to the historic performance of senior Stephanie Ahrens. Competing in the women's high jump on the final day of NCAAs, Ahrens cleared the bar at 5' 10" (1.78m) and became the program's first student-athlete to achieve first-team All-America honors in the DI era. Ahrens capped of her Maverick career as a four-time Summit League champ and three-time academic All-League recipient.

While Ahrens did something no previous Maverick track & field athlete had ever done, NDSU's Payton Otterdahl accomplished a feat only two other Summit League athletes have. With a pair of 10th-place marks in the shot and discus, Otterdahl joined the elite company of Southern Utah's Cameron Levins and NDSU's Whitney Carlson as the only league athletes ever to earn top-16 finishes at outdoor nationals in two different event categories.

It was a fantastic weekend—one that we could discuss for hours. For the sake of time and column space, here is how each Summit Leaguer faired in his or her event category when the dust finally settled Saturday afternoon:

Name

School

Event

Mark

Place

All-American Status

Jacob McBride

North Dakota State

Hammer

60.75m

24th

Honorable Mention

Jake David

South Dakota

Pole Vault

NH

--

--

Chris Nilsen

South Dakota

Pole Vault

5.83m

1st

First-Team

Israel Nelson

Oral Roberts

110mH (Semis)

13.81

13th

Second-Team

Payton Otterdahl

North Dakota State

Shot Put

19.62m

10th

Second-Team

Lara Boman

South Dakota

Hammer

57.57m

22nd

Honorable Mention

Maddy Nilles

North Dakota State

Hammer

66.49m

5th

First-Team

Helen Falda

South Dakota

Pole Vault

4.30m

T-9th

Second-Team

Rachel King

South Dakota State

3000m Steeple (Semis)

10:27.92

23rd

Honorable Mention

Alyssa Olin

North Dakota State

Javelin

55.02m

5th

First-Team

Mercy Abire

Oral Roberts

Long Jump

6.27m

13th

Second-Team

Zack Anderson

South Dakota

High Jump

2.08m

T-13th

Second-Team

Ben Hammer

South Dakota

Discus

NM

--

--

Payton Otterdahl

North Dakota State

Discus

55.48m

10th

Second-Team

Stephanie Ahrens

Omaha

High Jump

1.78m

T-8th

First-Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However you want to slice and dice them, the numbers do not lie. This outdoor track & field season was one of the best ever in Summit League history, and the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championship meet served as both a welcomed reminder and powerful reinforcement of such a sentiment.


#SummitOTF

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