Day 1 Recap: Puelz soars to fourth national title as one of four Bulldog All-Americans

By Jacob Knabel on May. 25, 2022 in Track & Field


GULF SHORES, Ala. – Josie Puelz has done it again. The Lincoln Lutheran High School alum soared to a fourth-straight pole vault national title while rising to the top of the NAIA on Wednesday (May 25). Puelz emerged as one of four All-Americans for Concordia University Track & Field on the first day of the 2022 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships. Other Bulldogs to reach the podium in Gulf Shores, Ala., were hammer throwers Alli Owings, Sarah Ragland and Chris Wren.

As of late Wednesday night, the meet had been suspended due to lightning. Head Coach Matt Beisel’s GPAC champion women’s squad leads the national field with 17 team points while the men have put four points on the board thanks to Wren.

The incredible Puelz has completed a sweep of NAIA indoor/outdoor pole vault national titles for the second year in a row. Puelz’s winning vault measured at a height of 13’ 1 ½” on Wednesday. It was a close competition with Aquinas College (Mich.)’s Victoria Faber, who also cleared that same height. Puelz emerged in first place based on her sequence of successful attempts. Puelz waited until the bar was raised to 12’ 5 ½” before entering the competition. Puelz is one of only two female athletes in program history to win at least four national titles. Carol Bailey (eight national titles) is the only Bulldog to claim more titles.

National titles and rising above 13 feet have become the norm for Puelz, who isn’t growing tired of these moments. Said the now five-time All-American, “I think something that really helped was that I’ve competed here before, which is just a blessing. The weather turned out really nice for us and I got to come back with incredible teammates – Erin (Mapson) and Amira (Cummings) … It always seems kind of surreal, which is fun. I’m just thankful for every chance that I get.”

Assistant Coach Ed McLaughlin has overseen the deepest hammer throw group in the country. Concordia qualified five individuals in the women’s hammer and two in the men’s hammer. The first All-Americans on the board for the week were Ragland (fourth place) and Alli Owings (seventh place). In the final action of her collegiate career, Ragland fired off a throw of 173’ 5” and picked up her third career All-America award. Meanwhile, Owings earned her first All-America plaque by throwing 167’ 10.” The additional women’s hammer competitors for the Bulldogs were Morgan De Jong (12th; 161’ 6”), Kamryn Pokorney (13th; 161’ 6”) and Abby Gerber (29th; 121’ 4”).

The Ragland name is a familiar one when it comes to Bulldog throwing. Her father John, a former Concordia football player and thrower, was in attendance to see Sarah polish off a fine college career. Said Sarah, “It really means a lot (to be an All-American). This is my fifth year of doing track at Concordia and putting everything into it. It wasn’t the result I wanted, but definitely still a good result.”

On the men’s side, Wren whirled a personal best hammer toss of 196’ 2,” good for sixth best in school history. Wren placed fifth in a competition that saw three GPAC throwers reach the podium. In addition, observers were treated to a new NAIA record of 243’ 5” by British Columbia’s Rowan Hamilton. Wren was joined at the national meet by teammate Andy Amos, who placed 13th (184’ 6”).

Said Wren, “There’s always more that you want to do, but I’m very happy with my placement. God-willing, I’ll do it again. There was a lot of prayer and a lot of working hard. I’m very thankful … It’s always fun to have a competitive competition. I wanted him (Hamilton) to have a good one and it was cool to see a new record get set.”

On the track, a number of Bulldogs have positioned themselves for All-America awards after qualifying for the finals of their respective events. In the women’s 400 hurdles, Jordan Koepke (1:02.30) and Sarah Lewis (1:02.35) both won their heats and placed third and fourth overall, respectively, in the preliminaries. They will both run in the finals on Friday. Koepke was the GPAC champion in the 400 hurdles and is the school record holder in the event.

Sophomore Rylee Haecker was part of two races that resulted in qualification for the finals. In the 1,500 meters prelims, the Davenport, Neb., native ran a time of 4:41.43 and placed eighth. She far exceeded her seeding of 23rd entering the meet. Haecker returned to the track at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium later in the evening and helped the 4x800 meter relay to a time of 9:15.06. The final two heats were not completed due to lightning, but Concordia has locked up a spot in Thursday’s finals by way of placing second in its heat. Haecker was joined in the 4x8 by Jenna Esch, Kylahn Heritage and Keri Bauer.

Also in the women’s pole vault, Bulldogs Amira Cummings and Erin Mapson took part in the competition. Cummings cleared the opening height of 11’ 3 ¾” before having to withdraw due to an injury. Meanwhile, Mapson no-heighted. Mapson was a third-place national finisher at the 2022 indoor national meet.

Sophomore Amy Richert is taking aim at a second career heptathlon All-America award. She currently stands in 13th place with 2,735 points. Four events were contested on Wednesday – the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200 meters. Richert came away with a personal best in the shot put. The long jump, javelin and 800 meters are scheduled for Thursday. Richert will also compete in the open high jump on Friday.

On the men’s side on the track, Camden Sesna placed 14th in the 1,500 meters with a time of 3:58.14. He also outperformed his seeding of 34th while narrowly missing out on the finals. The school record in the 200 meters, Cade Kleckner placed 37th in the 200 with a time of 22.22. His school standard of 21.16 was set at the GPAC Championships.

The women’s 4x100 meter relay group clocked a season best time of 47.80 on Wednesday and placed 17th in the prelims. That quartet included Rachel Battershell, Brittney Aitken, Sarah Lewis and Cora Olson. The time wasn’t far off the school record of 47.66 set in 2021. The Concordia men’s 4x1 wound up scratching from the meet.

Due to some events not being completed as scheduled on Wednesday, there may be some adjustments to final two days of the meet. As things stand, it will be a long day of action on Thursday with Richert resuming the heptathlon at 10:30 a.m. CT and the men’s 4x400 meter relay wrapping things up just before 10 p.m. Updates will be provided throughout the day via the @CUNEathletics Twitter account.

2022 NAIA Outdoor All-Americans

·        Alli Owings – hammer throw (7th)

·        Josie Puelz – pole vault (1st)

·        Sarah Ragland – hammer throw (4th)

·        Chris Wren – hammer throw (5th)

Concordia Schedule – Thursday, May 26

·        10:30 a.m. – Heptathlon: Amy Richert

·        2:30 p.m. – Women’s Shot Put: Abigail Gerber

·        3:30 p.m. – Women’s 800m: Keri Bauer

·        4:30 p.m. – Men’s High Jump: Wyatt Loga

·        5:20 p.m. – Men’s 400m: Xavier Ross

·        7:10 p.m. – Women’s 4x800m Relay Finals (MOVED to Saturday at 12 p.m. CT)

·        8:30 p.m. – Women’s 4x400m Relay: Sarah Lewis, Jordan Koepke, Jacee Pfeifer, Rachel Battershell (Alternates: Keri Bauer, Jenna Esch)

·        9 p.m. – Men’s 4x400m Relay: Jacob Jennings, Cade Kleckner, Colton Meyer, Xavier Ross (Alternate: Joel Rathe)