Levi Sudbeck wasn’t planning to be a track athlete at Doane.
“He came here as a football player. We didn’t even know he was on campus,” said Doane track coach Ed Fye, referring to Sudbeck’s freshman year in 2016.
But Sudbeck, who had been a three-sport athlete at Pierce High School, decided to walk on to the track team after the football season ended. And the self-described late bloomer has gone on to make a huge impact for Doane’s program.
His most recent impact was felt last weekend at the GPAC outdoor championships when he won the decathlon and pole vault and placed second in the 110-meter high hurdles as the Tigers won the men’s team title. The junior will compete in the decathlon, pole vault and high jump at the NAIA national meet, which begins May 23 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Sudbeck had near-misses at the national meet his first two years, finishing one spot from All-America honors in the multisport event. His breakthrough came in March when he won the heptathlon at indoor nationals with 5,273 points.
“Getting ninth place two years in a row, I definitely didn’t want to do that again,” Sudbeck said. “That was definitely my main drive, not to get ninth.”
Sudbeck also finished as an indoor All-American in the pole vault by placing sixth. Now he’s hoping to add a decathlon title to his heptathlon crown.
He scored a personal-best 6,516 points in the decathlon at Doane’s home meet in April. Sudbeck said the NAIA leader this spring has scored about 6,800 points, so he’s focusing on hitting personal-best marks in events to finish around that total.
Being able to compete in a variety of events suits his personality.
“To be able to do 10 events in two days is pretty fun,” said Sudbeck, who also was the starting punter and a wide receiver for Doane’s football team last fall. “It’s fun to know you have one event and then right away it’s, ‘OK, let’s do something else.’ ”
Fye agrees that Sudbeck is an ideal decathlete.
“He’s a tremendous competitor, but you wouldn’t know it because he jokes around with the officials and other competitors,” Fye said. “The thing that makes him special is when he steps on the runway, he has 100 percent focus.”
Fye is looking for his men’s and women’s teams to have strong showings at nationals. The women are fifth in the national rankings, while the men are ninth.
“We just need to go down there and take care of ourselves,” he said.
Also at the GPAC meet, the Hastings women set a school record in winning the 400-meter relay in 46.86 seconds. The relay team included Shantinique Cunningham, who also won the 100 and 200.
In other Midlands notes:
» B.J. Pumroy was named Hastings’ new athletic director on Monday. July 1 is the first official day for Pumroy, who also had been athletic director at Valley City State in North Dakota and Shepherd University in West Virginia. He will take over for Patty Sitorius, who is retiring at the end of the academic year.
» Concordia lost the GPAC baseball final 3-0 to Jamestown on Tuesday. Four Concordia pitchers combined to allow three hits, but Jamestown’s Dru Fitz threw a four-hitter to earn the win. Concordia, the GPAC’s regular-season champion, still advances to the NAIA tournament, which begins on Monday.
» Wayne State’s baseball team begins play Thursday at the Northern Sun tournament in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Wayne State, seeded fifth for the eight-team tourney, went 32-16 in the regular season, its first 30-win season since 2012.
» UNK’s Montrez Jackson set a school record in the high jump at the MIAA meet over the weekend. Jackson cleared 7 feet, ½ inch to break the record of 7 feet, which had stood since the 1970s.
» Chadron State sophomore Isaac Grimes was named the RMAC field athlete of the year. Grimes, who won the NCAA Division II indoor long jump earlier this year, has gone 25-7¼ in the event this spring.
» The Nebraska Wesleyan men’s golf team won the American Rivers Conference tournament on Saturday as Alex Kubik of Aurora was the individual medalist. The win qualifies the Prairie Wolves for the NCAA Division III national meet, which begins May 14 in Nicholasville, Kentucky.
» Western Nebraska will host the NJCAA Region IX softball tournament beginning Thursday. The Cougars went 24-6 in league play and bring a nine-game win streak into the tournament.
» McCook Community College has hired Brandon Pritchett as its women’s basketball coach. He had been the Indians’ interim coach since February.
» Midland will head to Springfield, Missouri, while Bellevue will go to Dodge City, Kansas, for the opening round of the NAIA softball national tournament, it was announced Tuesday.
Midland earned its spot in nationals by winning the GPAC regular-season title. This is the second straight year the Warriors head to nationals. Bellevue earned an at-large bid after finishing runner-up to Valley City State in the North Star conference. The Bruins are making their seventh NAIA appearance in the past 10 years. Both teams begin play on Monday.