CRETE, Neb. – A trio of Bulldogs seized individual conference titles while punctuating the first of two days at the 2022 GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Concordia University Track & Field swept GPAC pole vault titles thanks to Zach Bennetts and Josie Puelz while Sarah Ragland reigned supreme in the hammer throw. In addition, Joel Rathe (long jump) and Chris Wren (hammer) were runners up in their respective events as part of action that took place on the Doane campus in Crete, Neb.
Six events of 22 events were scored on the first day of the championship meet. Heading into Saturday, the Bulldog women are in first place with 48 points (Doane is second with 47 points) and the Concordia men reside in second place, also with 48 points (first-place Doane has 68 points). Head Coach Matt Beisel’s women’s program is aiming to extend its active streak of six-straight GPAC team titles.
A Lincoln Lutheran alum, Puelz keeps building upon a résumé that includes three NAIA national titles in the pole vault. She’s now a four-time GPAC pole vault champion after she rose over 12’ 7 ½” while beating out the next best competitor by nearly a foot. The Bulldogs wound up with 19 team points in the event as Amira Cummings (third), Erin Boggs (tied for seventh) and Sydney Reichert (tied for seventh) each placed in all-conference territory. Cummings hit the ‘B’ national qualifying standard with her vault of 11’ 7 ¾.”
Just like Puelz, Bennetts can now boast of a sweep of 2022 GPAC indoor/outdoor pole vault titles. Bennetts and Jamestown’s Braedon Gumke both cleared 15’ 5” on Friday, but Bennetts earned first place based on his sequence of successful attempts. Concordia put 16 points on the board in the men’s pole vault as Zach Zohner placed third.
The Bulldogs showed their might on both sides of the hammer throw. Ragland’s winning toss landed at 170’ 9,” which again eclipsed the automatic national qualifying standard. It marked the first career GPAC title for the native of Rocky River, Ohio, who happens to also be a two-time All-American. In addition, all-conference placements were turned in via Morgan De Jong (third), Mackenzie Ferrel (sixth) and Alli Owings (seventh) in the hammer. It all added up to 21 team points.
On the men’s side of the hammer, Wren popped off the second best throw of his career as he turned in a mark of 190’ 4.” He was flanked in the event by All-GPAC teammates Andy Amos (fifth), Dagne’ Buck (sixth) and Ben Moll (seventh). Entering the meet, Coach Ed McLaughlin’s crew ranked No. 1 nationally in the hammer (according to the USTFCCCA event squad ratings) for both men and women.
The Sterling, Neb., native Rathe continues to edge close to seven meters in the long jump. He hit 6.93 meters (22’ 9”) on Friday while outperforming his seeding of third entering the met. His personal best in the event remains 22’ 11.” On the women’s side of the long jump, Katie Severt collected an all-conference award by coming in fourth (17’ 10 ¾”).
Rounding out the all-conference placements for the day were Josh Taylor (sixth) and Logan Adam (seventh) in the javelin. Collectively, Concordia athletes combined for 18 All-GPAC awards on the first day of the conference meet.
Also noteworthy, a series of Bulldogs advanced to the finals in either the 100 meter dash or 100 meter hurdles. Finals qualifiers included Cade Kleckner (10.82), Rathe (10.94) and Jacob Jennings (10.97) in the men’s 100 meters, Brittney Aitken (12.40) and Cora Olson (12.51) in the women’s 100 meters and Sarah Lewis (14.65), Jordan Koepke (14.95) and Kaylee Boyle (15.58) in the women’s 100 hurdles.
In the women’s heptathlon, four of the seven events are in the books. The top performers so far for Concordia have been Amy Richert (fourth; 2,648 points), Boyle (sixth; 2,359 points) and Elena Batenhorst (ninth; 2,111 points). On Saturday, the heptathlon will conclude with the long jump, javelin and 800 meter race. Richert is not only looking to place high in the GPAC, but also to boost her chances of reaching the national meet as a heptathlon qualifier. She entered the weekend sitting 18th in the NAIA in the heptathlon.
Action on Saturday at the conference championships will pick up with the heptathlon and decathlon at 9 a.m. CT. The first field events will get underway at 12 p.m. followed by running events at 12:45. More details can be found via the links below.
2022 GPAC Outdoor Champions
· Zach Bennetts (Pole Vault)
· Josie Puelz (Pole Vault)
· Sarah Ragland (Hammer Throw)