KEARNEY, Neb. – The yields from a Good Friday (April 15) spent at the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Loper Invitational included fresh automatic national qualifying performances courtesy of Chase Berry and Jordan Koepke. As part of the meet, the Concordia University Track & Field programs went up against strong NCAA Division II and NAIA competition at Kearney High School. Collectively, Bulldog athletes combined for seven marks that met the automatic standard and Cade Kleckner came up a hair short in the 200 meters.
This was the fourth weekend of outdoor action for Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads. The women’s team entered the meet ranked third in the NAIA, according to the USTFCCCA national rating index. Cold temperatures and significant wind gusts made it a challenge, but it was still a chance to compete.
Said Beisel, “We were glad to get those two new marks and to see Cade get really close. It’s important to get reps in within a competition and to learn how to battle through conditions that aren’t always perfect. Nobody enjoys the cold weather, but we still had a lot of people put up good marks. It was a little hit or miss. We were down a little bit from it might have been on a nicer day. At the same time, we had some good competition there to push us. You have to be able to show you can compete through tough conditions. We got to practice that today in a competition situation.”
An indoor All-American in the 600 meters, Koepke is proving to be a star in a wide range of events. The Gulf Breeze, Fla., native beat out a field of 12 runners in the 400 hurdles with her personal best of 1:02.82 on Friday. That time came close to teammate Sarah Lewis’ PR of 1:02.70 from earlier this season and ranks No. 4 on the program’s all-time 400-hurdle list.
There have been some bumps in the road during Berry’s collegiate career. That’s why it was an emotional experience when the Seward High School product cleared 15’ 9” in the pole vault (second place at the Loper Invite). A two-time All-American, the goal for Berry is to get back up on that podium. Teammate Zach Bennetts placed sixth while vaulting 14’ 11.”
“Chase deserves special mention,” Beisel said. “He’s had to overcome a lot of stuff. Pole vaulting is mentally a challenging sport and he’s had some setbacks. He’s not complained – he’s battled his way back. It was a triumph for him today. He was pretty emotional afterwards. He gave his dad (pole vault coach Jason Berry) a big hug and gave me a big hug. He was almost over 16 feet. It was a big confidence boost that he needed.”
On the women’s side of the pole vault, Josie Puelz keeps doing Josie Puelz things. She won the competition at the Loper Invite by more than a foot with her season best of 13’ 5 ¼” that pushed her own school record of 13’ 7 ¼.” While doing so, Puelz also padded her lead atop the NAIA national leaderboard. Meanwhile, Erin Mapson again vaulted the ‘A’ standard of 11’ 11 ¾.” Another good sign was the return of Amira Cummings, who cleared 10’ 11 ¾.”
Currently ranked fourth in the NAIA in the discus, Sara Huss is showing consistency in again hitting the ‘A’ standard in the discus. She placed second at the Loper Invite with a mark of 145’ 8” (season best is 151’). In that same event, Olivia Buschow equaled her personal best with another ‘B’ mark of 141’ 6.” Other repeat national qualifying performers were Morgan De Jong (176’ 4”) and Sarah Ragland (169’ 7”) in the hammer. In addition, Abby Gerber was just shy of a ‘B’ mark in the shot put (42’ 5 ½”). Chris Wren led the way in the hammer on the men’s side with a ninth-place claim (171’ 8”). He had turned in a throw of 194’ 5” a week earlier at the Concordia Invite.
A native of Colorado Springs, Colo., Kleckner is moving closer to his personal best of 21.35 in the 200 meters. That time earned him a trip to the national meet a year ago. On Friday, he clocked in at 21.47 (currently 18th on the NAIA national list). Kleckner also ran the leadoff leg for the 4x100 meter relay that finished in 42.37. The group that included Joel Rathe, Jacob Jennings and Xavier Ross ran without any competition in the event. The Bulldogs continue to seek an ‘A’ standard in the event (41.50 required).
A week after the women’s 4x800 meter relay broke the Bulldog Stadium record in the event, the Concordia athletes that made up that quartet ran the open 800 on Friday. That deep bunch included Keri Bauer (2:18.03), Rylee Haecker (2:19.10), Kylahn Heritage (2:21.90) and Jenna Esch (2:23.26). Said Beisel, “We have a lot of depth in the 800. We were able to get some good stuff out of all of them. We wanted to get Kylahn an open 800 mark in case we have her run it at conference.”
Camden Sesna and Calvin Rohde continue to shine as the top distance runners on the men’s side. In the 1,500 meter race at the Loper Invite, Sesna clocked in at 4:01.15 and Rohde followed in 4:02.83. They placed fourth and sixth, respectively, out of 46 runners. On the women’s side of the distance group, Grace Reiman placed second in the 3,000 meter steeplechase with a time of 12:24.07.
The jumps group will hopefully have better opportunities yet this spring in warmer weather. Most notably from Friday’s meet, Joel Rathe landed at 22’ 11” for the 24th best long jump in the NAIA this season. All-American Wyatt Loga is still working his way towards the ‘A’ standard in the high jump. He got over the bar at 6’ 2 ¾” and placed ninth at the Loper Invite.
Next on the slate is the Jim Dutcher Classic that will be hosted by Doane over three days (April 21-23). The meet will be the first opportunity this outdoor season for multi-event athletes to showcase their abilities in the heptathlon and decathlon. The schedule for the Jim Dutcher Classic can be found HERE.
‘A’ standards achieved at Loper Invite
· Chase Berry – Pole Vault (15’ 9”)
· Morgan De Jong – Hammer Throw (176’ 4”)
· Sara Huss – Discus (145’ 8”)
· Jordan Koepke – 400 Hurdles (1:02.82)
· Erin Mapson – Pole Vault (11’ 11 ¾”)
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (13’ 5 ¼”)
· Sarah Ragland – Hammer Throw (169’ 7”)
New ‘B’ standard: Cade Kleckner (200 meters; 21.47)