The 2020-21 athletic schedule ended on a high note as two track and field student athletes earned individual national championship titles — the first time in school history two UW-Stout individuals have won a national title at the same meet.
Noah Zastrow won the men’s pole vault title and Kevin Ruechel won the men’s shot put title, while Jacob Bugella finished runner-up in the hammer throw.
The trio tallied 28 team points, putting Stout in an eighth-place tie, the Blue Devils’ highest finish since 2012.
The women also collected individual All-America honors from hurdler Hannah Zastrow and shot putter Mackenzie Huber.
The NCAA Division III Track and Field Championship was held May 27-29 in Greensboro, N.C.
The top ranked pole vaulter in NCAA Division III since spring 2020, Noah Zastrow claimed the 2021 outdoor pole vault title after seeing the 2020 and 2021 indoor and 2020 outdoor national championships canceled because of the pandemic.
Zastrow outdueled his competition, finishing with a vault of 16 feet, 8.75 inches.
Zastrow, a senior from Spencer majoring in mechanical engineering, set the school indoor and outdoor record this season on his quest for the national title. He sailed 17 feet, 8.50 inches for the indoor record this spring, then won the event at the WIAC outdoor championship with a jump of 17 5.50, tying his school record from earlier in the year, setting the conference championship record and earning Field Athlete of the Week honors. A week later, he upped the record with a mark of 17-7.
Ruechel also broke both the school indoor and outdoor shot put records this year, but he saved perhaps his best effort for his final throw of the season at the national championship meet.
Coming into the meet as the top seed, Ruechel was in second place entering the final round of competition. He let loose with a throw of 59 feet, 9 inches, more than a foot in front of the second-place competitor.
Ruechel, a senior from Pulaski majoring in mechanical engineering, had the best mark in the shot put in Division III during the indoor season, setting the school record with a mark of 60-1 in the final indoor meet of the season. He first broke the school outdoor record when he won the WIAC outdoor championship with a throw of 59-2.75, then topped that at the national meet.
Three more All-Americans
After a dominating indoor season in the weight throw, Bugella carried his success into the outdoor season with the hammer throw and came into the national championship seeded fourth but improved on his seed with a second-place finish on a throw of 196-10.
He is a junior from Rice Lake majoring in dietetics.
On the women’s side, first-year packaging major Hannah Zastrow, of Spencer, was seeded 12th coming into the national meet in the 100 hurdles and finished fifth, consistently breaking the school record throughout the last four weeks of the season.
She first broke the record at the WIAC outdoor championship, then set the mark the next three weeks, running a time of 14.23 seconds in the NCAA preliminaries to qualify for the finals where she ran a time of 14.28 for her first All-America title.
Sophomore Mackenzie Huber, of Colby, an early childhood education major, placed seventh in the shot put to round out UW-Stout’s All-America finishers.
For more information about UW-Stout’s results at the national meet and other Blue Devil news, go to the Athletics website.