It was another big year in the midlands college ranks, from a Division II football championship for Northwest Missouri State to another wrestling title for the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Some of the highlights from the last year:
» UNK repeated as NCAA Division II wrestling champions in March, scoring 108.0 points to edge St. Cloud State (105.0) for a second straight year. The Lopers had individual champions in Raufeon Stots (149) and Daniel DeShazer (133) and runners-up in Chase Nelson (165) and Romero Cotton (197).
It was the sixth straight year, and the ninth time in the last 10 years, either UNK or UNO won the national title.
» Northwest Missouri State: Bearcats won their fourth NCAA Division II football national championship, defeating Lenoir-Rhyne 43-28. “This is one of the most unselfish groups I've ever been around. So much of our success is credited to our 12 seniors,” coach Adam Dorrel said.
» Chadron State: The football team played in AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles led 31-16 before losing the nationally televised game 34-31 to No. 4 West Texas A&M.
» Midland University: Historic season for volleyball and men's soccer. The soccer team received its first Top 10 ranking after winning the Great Plains Athletic Conference postseason championship and earning a berth into the NAIA national tournament. The volleyball team reached nationals for the first time, winning a school-record 37 matches. “We had a special group of young women who produced a historic season at Midland this year. We are looking forward to seeing our 'Elite Eight' banner hanging in the Event Center,” coach Paul Giesselmann said.
» North Platte Community College: The men's basketball team set a school record with 30 wins and won the Region IX Tournament to qualify for the NJCAA National Tournament for the second time in school history. “Nationals was the best basketball experience I've had in my life,” sophomore guard Ethan Montalvo said. “Our talent last year was playing together to get to nationals. Setting the school record in wins just topped last year's season off.”
» Concordia: Coach Vance Winter led the Bulldogs to a 6-0 start and a 7-4 overall record, the best season for the program since 2001. Led by a defense that finished No. 4 in total yards and No. 6 in scoring, Concordia rose as high as 14th in the national poll and remained in playoff contention until late in the season. It was a breakthrough campaign for a program that had went 1-9 in 2008 — the season before Winter took over. “We knew it would take a little time because we were a long ways from competitive in 2008,” Winter said. “We were obviously hopeful that (the turnaround) would happen sooner. I was a part of that 2008 season as defensive coordinator and I knew firsthand how far we had to go to become a competitive program.”
» Nebraska Wesleyan: Women's tennis team won its third straight GPAC title, going undefeated in conference play for the third consecutive year and extending its winning streak to 22 straight GPAC regular-season match victories. “This year's team elevated our play to a new level and hope to continue the strong tradition of NWU tennis in the future,” coach Dr. Rick Harley said.
» Wayne State: Two women earned All-America honors in indoor and outdoor track and field. Wayne junior Carly Fehringer finished third in the weight throw indoors and was second in the hammer throw at outdoor nationals. She just missed another All-America finish in the shot outdoors, placing ninth. Albion sophomore Sara Wells also earned All-America honors in both seasons, placing sixth in the shot indoors and fifth in the discus outdoors.
» Morningside: Reigned supreme in the 3,200-meter relay when the Mustangs' men's and women's teams won national championships indoors.
The men ran a school-record 7:33.08 to capture the national championship for the second year in a row. Members were Jay Welp, Taylor Chapman, John Harris and Monte Larsen.
McKenzie Reece, Jennifer Petsche, Hailee Heitkamp and Breanna Mathes blazed to a 9:06.17 in the finals for a victory margin of almost four seconds.
» College of St. Mary: Cross country team won the MCAC title for the first time since 2004. Emily Weber was named the league runner of the year and Amy Sauser was chosen as the coach of the year.
» Doane: May 4 was a big day for the Tigers. The men's and women's track and field teams swept the GPAC outdoor championships and the men's tennis team won the GPAC title and advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the first time since the 1970s.
Offensive lineman Dillon Carmichael was named to the AFCA/NAIA Coaches' All-America team for the second consecutive year. He's the first Tiger double-honoree since Fred Davis in 1966 and 1967. Carmichael, from Loomis, Neb., was a four-year starter. He's also a thrower for the Tigers' track and field team.
» Bellevue: Seven of eight teams qualified for their respective NAIA national tournaments in 2012-13. Volleyball and men's and women's soccer won MCAC Tournament titles this fall, advancing to the NAIA national championships. Bellevue had eight All-Americans in 2012-13, five first-teamers.
» Peru State: Jordan Schaardt became first Bobcat woman to compete in an NAIA golf championship after winning the Heart of America individual title. “Jordan has been a fine representative for Peru State's golf program the past three years. Not only has she done well on the golf course, she has excelled in the classroom,'' coach Brett Hahn said.
The Bobcats' Mitch Boshart was named the NAIA A.O. Duer Male Award winner, the top award given to a junior student-athlete. Boshart also was the HAAC's Champions of Character male award.
» Hastings College: Men's soccer won an unprecedented 14th straight GPAC regular-season title while also advancing to the NAIA national tournament. The Broncos were knocked out in the quarterfinals.
Lauren Shomaker ran the second-fastest time in school history (18:36) while finishing 34th at cross country nationals.
» Western Nebraska: The women's basketball team captured its 10th Region IX title. The 20-15 Cougars, who had to forfeit 13 games because of an ineligible player, rebounded to suffer just two defeats on the scoreboard and make the national tournament for the first time since 2008.
“I look back at my days at WNCC a lot and winning that championship always comes to mind,” Jessica Aratani, a sophomore on last year's championship team said. “It was an unforgettable experience and it was great sharing an experience like that with my teammates since we were all a close knit group.''
The volleyball team captured its 15th straight Region IX tournament and earned a berth in the national tournament. WNCC finished 40-4, the 14th straight year the Cougars have won 40 or more matches.
“Winning regionals and heading to nationals for the 15th straight year was an awesome win to be apart of,” Morgan Broussard, a Gering High graduate said. “We became such a close family and that is something I will never forget and always cherish. We also had such a great support system, fan base, and community behind us. No matter what happened they were always there for us.''