Kearney, Neb. – Nebraska-Kearney senior distance runners Morgan Benesch and Colle Wellnitz wrapped up record breaking careers and junior Bailey Stapleman took part in the pole vault Friday at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships in Bradenton, Fla. The three-day meet began Thursday morning at IMG Academy and runs through Saturday. Live results and a live video web stream are available all weekend. In the afternoon, Stapleman (Fairfield) was one of six competitors to clear 16-3.25. Based on judge’s decision, he finished 15th in a 20-person field. The Sandy Creek High graduate reached 16-3.25 in his second attempt; he missed all three vaults at the next height, 16-7.25. That would’ve tied his personal best. Both Payton Lewis (Northwest Nazarene, Idaho) and Cole Phillips (Central Missouri) went 17-7 with Lewis taking home the national title thanks to clearing the height in his first attempt. Next, Wellnitz (Rushville) took part in the 1,500 meter prelims.
Running in the first of two heats, he was third at the 700 meter mark but fell back and ended up 20th overall (4:15.99). Ryan Cox from Northwest Missouri State (3:50.21) had the top time with the final qualifier turning in a 3:52.50. Wellnitz set the school record several times in this event the past four years, the latest being a 3:47.64 at the Dr. Keeler Invite in Illinois. He leaves as one of the most decorated runners in Loper lore, both in cross country and track. The same came be said of Benesch (Columbus Scotus). An All-American in cross country and indoor track, she was aiming for her first top eighth finish at the outdoor meet. This evening, she ran a 10:48.13 to place 17th in the steeplechase prelims. Running in the first heat, she was second in the early going but was between eighth and 10th the rest of the way. Colett Rampf of nearby St. Leo ran an impressive 10:23.91 to lead the field with the 12th and final qualifier running a 10:34.49. Benesch set the UNK record in this event several times the past two years, the latest being a 10:34.95 at the MIAA Championships. On Friday, sophomore Jacob Bartling will throw the discus with junior Emily Everitt taking part in the high jump.