Championship streak continues for women; Bulldogs cap conference meet with seven event titles

By Jacob Knabel on May. 8, 2022 in Track & Field

Day 1 GPAC Recap

CRETE, Neb. – Make it a seven-peat for the Concordia University Track & Field women’s program. Aided by five individual conference champions, the Bulldog women have laid claim to the title of 2022 GPAC outdoor track & field team titlist. Concordia compiled 216 points on the women’s side while holding off second-place Hastings (172 points). Meanwhile, the Bulldog men totaled 129 points and placed third in the conference.

The 2022 GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships were held Friday and Saturday (May 6-7) on the Doane campus in Crete, Neb. On day two of the meet, Head Coach Matt Beisel’s program celebrated GPAC individual titles from Keri Bauer (800 meters), Rylee Haecker (1,500 meters), Jordan Koepke (400 hurdles) and Camden Sesna (5,000 meters). On the previous day, Zach Bennetts (pole vault), Josie Puelz (pole vault) and Sarah Ragland (hammer throw) won conference championships.

An excellent weekend was made even sweeter with new school records being set by the women’s 4x400 meter relay, Cade Kleckner (200 meters) and Koepke (400 hurdles). Said Beisel, “We went into this meet with high hopes, big expectations and a lot of prayer. We had some big ups and downs. Our men were projected anywhere from fifth to third and we wanted third. One of the things I’m most proud of is how our men stepped it up and earned third. Top three in the GPAC is legit.

“Our women also brought the heat – seven consecutive GPAC titles. It’s impossible to explain what a big deal this is. I never took it for granted going into the meet. Hastings’ women’s team is a force to be reckoned with, and Doane had a very strong start on Friday. Our depth pulled us through.”

The run of GPAC titles for the women’s program began with the 2019 conference indoor meet and has kept motoring on. It wasn’t just about the individual champions in the latest banner weekend. In Saturday’s action, the Concordia women got major points out of the 400 meters (21), 1,500 meters (20), discus (19) and 400 hurdles (16). Runner up finishes were turned in by Rachel Battershell in the 400, Kylahn Heritage in the 1,500, Cora Olson in the triple jump and Erin Painter in the discus.

A native of Gulf Breeze, Fla., Koepke is already establishing herself as a star while just a freshman. Koepke blazed to a 400 hurdle time of 59.50 and took home the GPAC title. Not only did Koepke break the school record in the event, she also set a new GPAC meet record. The previous school 400 hurdle record had been held by Emily Wolters (1:00.87) since 2009. As of late Saturday night, Koepke ranked No. 2 in the NAIA in the 400 hurdles. Koepke also scored in the 100 hurdles (fourth) and ran the second leg for the record-breaking 4x4. The times for Lewis and Koepke in the 100 hurdles hit the ‘A’ standard.

The women’s 4x4 group also featured Sarah Lewis, Jenna Esch and Bauer. They sped around the track in 3:48.93 and placed second behind only Dordt at the conference meet. The previous program standard of 3:49.27 had stood since the 2009 national championships. Lewis also set a new PR in the 400 hurdles (1:01.91) and placed third – and was a third-place finisher in the 100 hurdles. As for Bauer, she experienced a major breakthrough in the 800 with her personal best championship time of 2:14.01 (No. 3 in school history). She qualified for nationals and moved up to No. 10 in the NAIA in the event.

A senior from Colorado Springs, Colo., Kleckner enjoyed a monster meet. He beat out his own school record in the 200 meters while gliding to a second-place time of 21.16 on Saturday. In addition, Kleckner placed second in the 100 meters (10.73) and capped the meeting with a starring effort on a men’s 4x400 meter relay that got the fresh automatic national qualifying time it was striving for. Kleckner ran the second leg. He followed Jennings and then gave way to Colton Meyer and Xavier Ross. They finished in 3:15.45 and placed third in the conference.

This was a breakthrough day for Ross as well. He ran his 4x4 split in 47.40 and also clocked a 48.04 in the open 400 meters (fourth place) while notching another new automatic qualifying time. Jennings placed eighth in the 400 while putting a conference point on the board.

A national cross country qualifier, Sesna has put together a fine outdoor track season. He racked up 18 team points this weekend while winning the 5k and placing second in the 1,500 meters with a time of 3:55.11. Just like usual, teammate Calvin Rohde (3:56.84) was right on his heels in the 1,500. The win in the 5k marked the first career GPAC title for Sesna. Rohde took sixth in the 5k.

Between indoor and outdoor in 2022, Haecker has accumulated three individual GPAC titles. Her winning time in the 1,500 meters on Saturday registered in at 4:41.50. Heritage wasn’t far behind at 4:47.35. Haecker added two more team points with her seventh-place claim in the 800 meters. Haecker is a four-time All-American.

As for the throwers, they combined for 12 All-GPAC placements between the discus and shot put on Saturday. Painter’s runner-up discus toss landed at 138’ 7.” After placing second in the hammer on Friday, Chris Wren notched an eighth-place claim in the discus on Saturday. The hammer was particularly strong for the Bulldogs with four top-eight finishes on both the men’s and women’s sides. Ragland earned her first career GPAC title by taking first in the hammer on Friday.

Among other Saturday notables, Wyatt Loga placed fifth in the GPAC in the high jump with a mark of 6’ 8 ¾.” Thought not an automatic national qualifying mark, it puts Loga in a tie for 12th in the NAIA. Meanwhile, Amy Richert met the ‘B’ standard for the high jump on the women’s side. She was also a fifth-place finisher in the heptathlon. A well-rounded athlete, Olson scored in three separate events. Brittney Aitken scored in both the 100 meters (fifth) and 200 meters (third).

Beisel summed up the meet by saying, “I’m proud of our coaches and have such respect for our athletes. I want to give all credit and glory to Christ. Everything good comes from Him. The school records were exciting and awe-inspiring. We saw a lot of gutsy performances. I love these women and men with my whole heart – so proud of them.”

All-conference accolades are awarded to all athletes who place inside the top eight of individual events. Relays that finish in the top three are also recognized as All-GPAC honorees. The official list of Concordia all-conference award winners will be released next week.

Before shifting focus to the 2022 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, the Bulldogs will be in action at the Concordia Twilight Meet (May 13) and the UNK Loper Twilight Meet (May 14) next week. The tentative schedule for the Concordia Twilight can be found HERE.

2022 GPAC Outdoor Champions

·        Keri Bauer (800 Meters)

·        Zach Bennetts (Pole Vault)

·        Rylee Haecker (1,500 Meters)

·        Jordan Koepke (400 Hurdles)

·        Josie Puelz (Pole Vault)

·        Sarah Ragland (Hammer Throw)

·        Camden Sesna (5,000 Meters)

School Records Broken

·        Women’s 4x400 Meter Relay (3:48.93)

·        Cade Kleckner – 200 Meters (21.16)

·        Jordan Koepke – *400 Hurdles (59.90)

*Broke GPAC meet record