In Pittsburg, Kansas, this past weekend, another NCAA Track and Field Championship was be held.
It was the 33rd time Division II track had an indoor championship and the second time Pittsburg hosted it. This one is different though. For the first time ever, Missouri Western had an athlete competing at the event. He qualified for the triple jump, it is his senior year and his name is Phil Thompson.
Thompson qualified for Nationals in the triple jump with a jump of 49-5, which he did on January 12 in Nebraska at the Graduate Classic. That jump was good enough for him to finish 14 in all of Division II and a gave him the opportunity to jump at Nationals. With Missouri Western being in its first ever track and field season, there is a lot of excitement.
One of the most excited is coach Mark Bierbaum.
“It’s pretty cool, it’s awesome,” Bierbaum said. “I don’t want to downplay it, it’s awesome. First [Missouri Western] athlete ever.”
This may be the first time Western has an athlete competing, but this is not the first time for Thompson. He competed in the triple jump last year at nationals and finished 12th. At the time he was a part of the track team at St Joseph’s College in Indiana. When the college was closed, Thompson and teammate Nikki Thiede needed a new college. Bierbaum wasted no time.
“I jumped in on the recruiting process when we found out the school closed and researched a couple of their athletes,” Bierbaum said. “Phil and Nikki got back to me, we started talking and it went really well.”
Although Thompson is excited for the opportunity he has at Western, it was still a little tough moving from Indiana to Missouri.
“It was hard trying to get adjusted from being in a school for two years,” Thompson said. “I got adjusted though.”
Thompson is looking forward to the opportunity to do better this year and gives a lot of credit to his coaches.
“I have coach Boellstorff who helped me the whole way,” Thompson said. “It’s really nice having him. He helps me every day in practice.”
Not only does Thompson have the support of his coaches, but he also has the benefit of jumping on the same runway. Pittsburg also hosted the MIAA Conference Championship two weeks ago where Thompson placed fifth in the triple jump. At Nationals, the runway is raised and Thompson got a few practice tries when he was their which hopefully gives him a slight advantage. Thompson hopes so because after finishing 12th last year he hopes to break that in his senior season. When asked where he thought he would finish, Thompson was very positive.
“Defineltey top eight,” Thompson said. “It’s about time I squeeze in there.”
Bierbaum has the same confidence.
“All-American,” Bierbaum said. I’m excited for him. I know he wants it, he’s working hard for it and he deserves it.”
Well Thompson sure performed up to his expectations and his coaches. Thompson placed third at Nationals with a jump of 50ft 11 1/2 in (15.53m)! This shattered the school record and was a personal best for Thompson. He came into the meet ranked 14th, but that did not stop him from rising to the occasion and earning All-American honors. Anytime a program has an All-American, it’s extraordinary, but being in the first year of a program makes it that much more special. Congratulations to Phil Thompson and the entire Missouri Western track and field team.
The track team will start their outdoor season this Saturday, March 24th in Des Moines, Iowa