Day 1 Recap: Wren captures hammer title, Freiberg breaks school record

By Jacob Knabel on May. 22, 2024 in Track & Field

LIVE RESULTS | NAIA Interview with Chris Wren

MARION, Ind. – In the moments after tasting national championship glory for the first time, Chris Wren literally soaked the accomplishment in as teammates treated him to the traditional cold-water shower. The Fair Oaks, Calif., native won’t soon forget this day. In the finals of the hammer throw competition at the 2024 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, Wren edged out a fellow contender in the hotly contested finals while capturing his first career national title.

Wren’s achievement was the highlight of Wednesday (May 22) action in Marion, Ind. Additionally, Kylahn Freiberg broke the women’s program 1,500-meter record and Jordan Koepke put together a finals qualifying time in the 400-meter hurdles. Late in the evening, Gretchen Stottlemyre emerged as a Cinderella story in making her way to the All-America podium. Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads seek to build upon their top-10 national placements at the ’24 NAIA indoor meet.

Assistant coach Ed McLaughlin has now presided over 20 individual national titles in the throws during his long-tenured Concordia career. This was the fairytale ending that athletes dream about. Wren has lived it.

Said Wren almost immediately at the conclusion of the hammer competition, “Honestly, relief. It was such a competitive competition. Three centimeters was all the difference was. It’s a feeling of relief and a little bit of pride but mostly, all glory be to God. Thanks to my teammates for sticking by me – and my coach (McLaughlin). They never stopped believing. I owe a lot to them, but mostly – glory be to God.”

Seeded second nationally entering the meet, Wren stood atop the field with a throw of 208 feet as Wednesday’s hammer finals got underway. On his fifth attempt, Marian University (Ind.)’s Christian Rios took over the lead at 208’ 4.” Wren immediately responded by eking past Rios at 208’ 5.” That mark held up through the closing attempts of the finals. The 2024 weight throw national runner up Wren effectively seized his fifth career All-America award.

This will also be the final meet of Freiberg’s career. The Nampa, Idaho, native will shoot for one more All-America award in the 1,500-meter finals on Friday. She blazed to a school record of 4:31.08 (third fastest in the prelims) in breaking the former school record of 4:33.84 by teammate Rylee Haecker at the 2023 national meet. Freiberg and Haecker also happen to be two of the stars of a 4x800-meter relay that took home an indoor national title. In the 4x8 appearance on Wednesday, the Bulldogs came up short of reaching the finals. The combination of Jenna Esch (2:15.12), Haecker (2:18.66), Rhaya Kaschinske (2:24.89) and Freiberg (2:16.41) finished in 9:15.11, settling for 11th place. Haecker won 10 All-America awards during an impressive collegiate career that is now complete.

Seeded 25th in the javelin entering the day, the Olympia, Wash., native Stottlemyre showed she meant business when her first throw of the day landed at a personal best distance of 136’ 6.” She placed second in the first flight and then had to wait through flights two and three before her spot in the finals was secured. Stottlemyre wound up in eighth place when the dust settled as she earned her first career All-America award.

Said Stottlemyre, “I really just wanted to go in there and have fun. I was a lot calmer this year since it was my second trip to nationals. Honestly, after I threw the first one, I didn’t think it was that good. Yeah, it was pretty good – and I went and hugged Ed. It was fun.”

Koepke will be looking to add to her six career All-America awards as a finalist in the 400 hurdles. She won her preliminary heat in a time of 1:02.07 (fifth overall in the prelims). Koepke is already the school record holder in the event (59.90). She’ll be in action as part of the 4x4 on Thursday.

It was a busy day for Concordia hammer throwers. Each of them took part in the celebration for Wren while also testing themselves on the national stage. On the men’s side, Darien Semedo placed 15th (183’ 1”), Brady Klute placed 19th (180’ 3”) and Connor Asche placed 25th (164’ 10”). On the women’s side, Kamryn Pokorney placed 16th (169’ 4”), Abby Gerber placed 17th (167’ 4”) and Abi Wohlgemuth placed 25th (154’ 10”). Gerber and Pokorney will be back in action on Thursday in the shot put.

In the women’s heptathlon, Josi Noble and Amy Richert will continue their push for All-America awards when competition picks back up on day two. With four events scored, Richert stands in ninth place with 2,849 points while Noble resides in 15th place with 2,700 points. The final three events to be scored in the heptathlon will be the long jump, javelin and 800 meters.

The throws crew qualified one athlete apiece in the men’s and women’s javelin. The GPAC champion and school record holder, Matthew Boyer scratched all three throws in his first experience at a national meet.

One of three women’s relays qualified for the meet, the 4x100-meter group ran in the afternoon on Wednesday and clocked in at 47.54 (18th place). That relay included Cambria Saunders, Kayla Kirchner, Kellie Rhodes and Adrianna Rodencal. There’s more to come this weekend for both Kirchner and Rodencal.

Day two of the national meet will get started at 11 a.m. EDT as the heptathlon resumes. The complete day two schedule for Concordia can be found below.

2024 NAIA Outdoor All-Americans

·        Gretchen Stottlemyre – Javelin (8th; 136’ 6”)

·        Chris Wren – Hammer Throw (1st; 208’ 5”)

Thursday (May 23) Concordia Schedule

All times EDT

·        Heptathlon (11:00 a.m.) – Josi Noble, Amy Richert

·        Women’s 100m Hurdles (2:00 p.m.) – Adrianna Rodencal, Kayla Svoboda

·        Women’s Shot Put (2:30 p.m.) – Abby Gerber, Kamryn Pokorney

·        Women’s 800m (2:30 p.m.) – Jenna Esch

·        Men’s 5,000m Race Walk (5:15 p.m.) – Luke Hammang

·        Men’s Discus (6:00 p.m.) – Austen Rozelle

·        Men’s 5,000m (7:35 p.m.) – Calvin Rohde

·        Women’s 4x400m Relay (8:15 p.m.) – Jenna Esch, Kayla Kirchner, Trinity Tuls, Jordan Koepke, Alternate: Isabelle Salters