May 29, 2024

Spartans send two to nationals

Oates wins regional race

Southwestern track and field coach Scott Vicker (center) is taking Jedd Weinkoetz (left) and Chase Oates (right) to the National Junior College Athletic Association track and field championships in Monroe, Louisiana. Weinkoetz will compete in the javelin throw Saturday morning and Oates runs in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Friday afternoon.

Southwestern Community College will have two competitors in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Track and Field Championships this weekend.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is host of this year’s competition. Southwestern sophomore Chase Oates, who has set eight school records in indoor and outdoor track for the Spartans, will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 4:50 p.m. Friday.

Oates became an automatic national qualifier when he became the third Spartan in history to win a regional event. The sophomore from Columbia Heights, Minnesota, won the steeplechase in 9:37.59, upsetting Iowa Western’s Flynn Pumpa, who had run 14 seconds faster than Oates during the season.

On Saturday, freshman Jedd Weinkoetz will compete in the javelin throw at 10 a.m. Weinkoetz placed fourth in the regional meet and is an at-large qualifier at nationals.

Oates was named Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Outstanding Track and Field Athlete of the week after his impressive double at the regional meet. In a 16-hour period May 4-5 in Council Bluffs, Oates set a new school record in the 10,000-meter run (placing third) and won the steeplechase event by nearly two seconds.

Southwestern's Chase Oates (right) clears a hurdle during the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the regional meet in Council Bluffs. Oates won the race in 9:37.59.

The only previous regional champions in SWCC track and field history were Ronald Henderson in the high jump in 2017 and 2018 (indoor and outdoor both seasons) and Phoenix Shadden in the steeplechase in 2018 in a time of 9:55.76.

Oates, who concentrated more on the 1,500 meters as a freshman in a school-record time of 4:01.07, shattered Shadden’s record the first time he ran the 3K steeplechase this season at Cornell College in 9:35.59. It easily made the national qualifying standard of 9:50.

“It became obvious early in the outdoor season that the steeplechase would be Chase’s best opportunity to grab an All-American spot,” Spartan coach Scott Vicker said.

Confusion with the lap counter in the regional race left Oates thinking he had two laps left in the steeplechase race when he actually had just one. But, he had surged ahead of Pumpa with 350 meters to go and held him off to win by 1.7 seconds.

“Chase ran smart and took advantage at the right point in the race,” Vicker said. “Coming back and running that well that soon after his 10K was an outstanding performance. I could not have asked for anything more out of Chase.”

The points for Oates taking third in the 10K and winning the 3K steeplechase helped the Spartans place sixth in the region with 44 points, ahead of Southeastern, and nearly surpassed NIACC for fifth.

“We ended up 16 points behind NIACC for fifth, but we were ahead of them for a long time,” Vicker said. “With five events left I thought we had a chance to stay in front of them, but they scored 18 more points than they were projected to score after some other athletes pulled out of events late in the weekend.”

Oates smashed Chance Webster’s 2018 school record in the 10K on Saturday evening, running 74 seconds faster than the record. Oates ran 5K splits of 17:03 and 16:00 in a third-place time of 33:04.08 over the 6.2 miles. It was his first 10K in competition.

“He looked so smooth and relaxed I really wasn’t too concerned about him coming back the next day in the steeplechase,” Vicker said. “He wanted to break the school record. Nothing he does surprises me anymore.”

Vicker ran the 3K steeplechase at St. Louis University after running at state in both cross country and distance races in track for Creston. Oates says it’s an advantage having a coach experienced in the unique race with five barriers to hurdle on each lap, including a water jump.

“It’s my favorite event now,” Oates said. “It adds a little challenge, going over the hurdles and jumping the water. It adds a little excitement to it. Coach (Vicker) helped me in how to approach the water and not kill your momentum. When you step on that water jump hurdle, don’t step high, push off the back of it and land far enough out that you land in stride with just one foot in the water. The more you can land in stride the less energy you’re using and the faster you can go.”

Rapid improvement

Weinkoetz, a member of state-qualifying sprint relays at AC/GC, had not planned on participating in track when he enrolled at Southwestern.

“I got on campus and we were getting our tour around campus, and the tour guide said, ‘you look like a javelin thrower.’ I kind of laughed and didn’t think much about it,” Weinkoetz said.

Then, on move-in day, Vicker said he noticed Weinkoetz wearing a Drake Relays T-shirt.

“I said something to him about joining the track team,” Vicker said. “The next time I saw him, he asked if he could throw the javelin if he came out. I said absolutely!”

With the help of assistant coach Mark Evans and some online “virtual” coaches, Weinkoetz showed rapid improvement this season.

“A lot of javelin throwers have that build like Jedd, with height and long arms, and speed,” Vicker said. “He dove in 100 percent in researching and finding virtual coaches.”

Southwestern freshman Jedd Weinkoetz throws the javelin at the regional meet in Council Bluffs. Weinkoetz placed fourth and qualified for the national meet with a thgrow of 45.91 meters.

Like Oates, who found training assistance in sessions with Ben Tilus of Accelerate Performance Lab in Des Moines, there are several ways to pick up tips in the current track and field environment.

“Mike Stein of the University of Iowa is one of the best javelin throwers in the country,” Vicker noted. “Jedd has connected with him and watched him throw at the Drake Relays.”

Weinkoetz was a member of Southwestern’s sprint medley relay at the Drake Relays, and has run on the 4x100 relay this spring. He moved up to second on the program’s all-time list in the javelin throw when he placed fourth at 45.91 meters (150.6 feet).

Freshman Ross Stephens took seventh with a PR throw of 40.40 meters. Stephens also claimed the last qualifying spot in the 110 meter hurdles, and then moved up to sixth in the finals with a personal best time of 15.99 seconds.

Decathlon contender

Sophomore Jonathon Hackett, battling a knee injury much of the outdoor season, took second place in the men’s decathlon at the regional meet. He had a two-day score of 5,076 points but came up short of a wildcard berth at nationals.

“For him to grind out a runner-up finish after barely being able to practice for the past month shows the type of athlete he is,” Vicker said. “I’m so proud of him for the effort.”

The group of Sam Foreman, Weinkoetz, Emmet Long and Oates ran the 4x800 relay to gain three team points.

For the Spartan women, Malori Leonard and Abbi Richter combined to score 12 points for Southwestern. Leonard and Richter both scored points in each the discus throw and javelin.

Chase Oates SWCC records

Indoor track

1,000 meters — 2:31.68 (2023-24)

1 mile — 4:20.44 (2023-24)

3,000 meters — 8:59.90 (2023-24)

5,000 meters — 15:37.09 (2023-24)

Outdoor track

1,500 meters — 4:01.07 (2023)

3,000 steeplechase — 9:35.59 (2024)

5,000 meters — 15:26.43 (2024)

10,000 meters — 33:04.08 (2024)

Larry Peterson

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.