Emporia, ESU set to host future NCAA Track and Field Championships, welcomes boost in economy and spirit


EMPORIA, Kan. (KSNT) – Emporia State announced days ago they’d be hosting the NCAA Division II track and field national championships in 2024 and 2026.

It’s an event that’ll bring over 750 athletes from across the nation to Emporia, plus every other person and spectator that makes these events so special. It’s a boost to the school, the track and field program, and, of course, the city itself.

“It just couldn’t have come at a better time, for all of us I think,” ESU athletic director Kent Weiser said.

ESU’s bid was selected among many others to host the championships for these two years and Weiser sees it as a ray of hope during this dark time

“I’ll tell you and I can just imagine our student-athletes and our community members all wanting to see the light at the end of the tunnel here and three and a half years it’s a long time but it’s a short time away,” Weiser said.

For the city of Emporia – which saw multiple major events canceled – it’s a bit of future economic relief

“You can look at in the raw numbers, the Kansas department of wildlife and tourism has the formula to calculate the economic impact and they estimate this impact for our region to be well over four million dollars,” Emporia vice-mayor Rob Gilligan said.

But more importantly, it’s a chance for the area to shine on the national stage.

“I think one of the things that make those events that we host, those worldwide events, like the Glass Blown Open or the Dirty Kanza in downtown in Emporia is the community response. We show up, come to any event and Emporians show up,” Gilligan said.

And for the Hornet track and field team themselves, it’s huge, especially in recruiting.

“It’s something that’s important to us and that we take very serious and they’re going to get the best out of their student-athlete experience when they come to emporia state and they’re going to be supported across all walks of life and so I think that’s gonna send a resounding message to those recruits,” head track and field coach Steven Blocker said.

And for current hornets who will be on the 2024 team, a chance to do something incredible

“We want to be successful every year, but on the home track, it’s going to be a little more special,” Blocker said.

ESU has a few minor upgrades they need to make to get to NCAA championship level field specs, but that’ll be done well before 2024 as they get ready to welcome thousands to the Flint Hills region.

ESU athletics also released this:

Emporia State’s Welch Stadium and Zola Witten Track have been selected as the host site for the 2024 and 2026 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships.  It will be the fourth and fifth time that Welch Stadium has played host to the national championships.

Welch Stadium previously served as the host site for the National Championships in 1995, 1999 and 2006 with the first meet in 1995 bringing 450 student-athletes to Emporia. The 2024 and 2026 meets are scheduled to bring 754 student-athletes, nearly 200 coaches and over 100 officials to the Flint Hills over the Memorial Day weekend.

During championship week, the NCAA Committee will come to Emporia on Monday with the first practice time available on Tuesday.  Wednesday of championship week will see a variety of coaches and officials meetings before the actual competition begin on Thursday.  The meet will wrap up on Saturday evening.

This is the third time for this specific NCAA championship bid process, which created the largest host site announcement ever, spanning 86 championships across a four-year cycle. Previously, selection announcements varied by sport. This process now gives the NCAA and host sites more time to plan each championship experience.

Bidding for 86 of 90 NCAA championships began in August 2019 and more than 3,000 bid applications were ultimately submitted. Each sport committee, per division, selected the host sites it believed would provide the ultimate experience for the respective student-athletes, resulting in more than 450 total championship event sites being awarded. More than 54,000 student-athletes compete in NCAA championships each year. The four championships not included in the process due to preexisting site arrangements are: Division I baseball, Division I football, Division I softball and Division III women’s ice hockey.

Emporia State will host a press conference on Monday, October 19 to talk about the impact and logistics of bringing the championships to Welch Stadium. Exact time and location will be announced soon.

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