Day 2 Recap: 4x8 captures national title, Wren places as NAIA runner up

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 1, 2024 in Track & Field

LIVE RESULTS | Concordia T&F YouTube | Day 1 Recap

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Emotions of pure joy filled the Bulldog women’s 4x800 meter relay group on Friday (March 1) as it celebrated an NAIA national title. As the anchor leg, Kylahn Freiberg crossed the finish line and was immediately bearhugged by 4x8 teammates Jenna Esch, Rylee Haecker and Julie McIntyre. That quartet ascended to the All-America podium along with throwers Abi Wohlgemuth and Chris Wren and pole vaulter Josie Puelz on day two of the 2024 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships in Brookings, S.D.

With six of 21 events scored on the women’s side, Concordia is currently tied for third place with 15 points. Meanwhile, the Bulldog men sit in a tie for ninth place with eight points.

“I’m never going to forget it,” Beisel said of the national championship moment for the 4x8. “It’s my first national champion that I’ve coached and it’s the second national championship relay that Concordia’s ever had. The biggest thing is I feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude to God. There’s been a lot of prayer in the days leading up to this. Today God said ‘yes’ to a really special thing. I’m most happy for the girls. It’s something they’ll have for the rest of their lives. It’s an incredible legacy to leave for Concordia.”

Three of the four Bulldogs who made up the 4x8 had already run an individual race (and qualified for finals) before gearing up for the relay. As the leadoff leg, Esch helped jump Concordia out to a sizeable lead that it never relinquished. The splits were 2:16.32 for Esch, 2:17.10 for Haecker, 2:18.12 for McIntyre and 2:14.61 for Freiberg. It added up to a school record time of 9:06.48, sufficient to hold off hard charging final leg for The Master’s of California (the runner up). The Bulldogs entered the meet seeded first and backed it up.

All four relay runners provided thoughts following the performance in an interview that can be viewed HERE. Said the now nine-time All-American Haecker, “Praise God. All year we’ve been dreaming about this. It’s a gift from Him that we were able to put it together. There are not enough words for it honestly. I’m just overcome with emotion. Senior year – that’s the way to go out for all of us as a relay.”

One of the deepest weight throw crews in the country qualified three individuals for both men and women. Wren earned the fourth All-America award of his career while coming in near his personal best with a toss of 65’ ¾.” The national runner-up claim for Wren marked his highest ever finish at a national meet. In addition, Darien Semedo placed 13th and Brady Klute placed 20th. On the women’s side, Wohlgemuth collected her first career All-America medal by placing sixth with a throw of 57’ 8 ¼.” She was joined in the competition by teammates Kamryn Pokorney (22nd) and Abby Gerber (24th).

Wren’s consistent excellence in the weight throw has been remarkable. Said the senior Wren afterwards, “It’s been a long time coming. I’m glad to have finally gotten to that place. I just give all the glory to God that He’s gotten me in this position.”

The day wrapped up with Concordia’s seventh official All-American of the meet as Josie Puelz rose to the occasion while shaking off what has been a challenging indoor season. She cleared four-straight bars at the national meet with a high of 12’ ½,” placing her in seventh. The Lincoln Lutheran alum will take home her eighth career All-America award. Two of her teammates also cleared bars as Erin Boggs placed 13th (11’ 8 ½”) and Amira Cummings placed 20th (11’ 4 ½”). Sydney Reichert no-heighted in her first career experience at a national meet.

More All-America awards will be expected on the track on Saturday as four Bulldogs booked their tickets for the finals: Esch in the 800 meters (2:16.55), Freiberg in the mile (5:00.08), Haecker in the 1,000 meters (2:53.91) and Calvin Rohde in the mile (4:12.91). It’s a feel-good story for Rohde, a senior hoping to reach the podium for the first time in his career. The Reed City, Mich., native clocked the fastest time in field in the mile on Friday. Meanwhile, Freiberg’s mile was the second fastest in school history.

Elsewhere in the field events, Concordia had entrants in both the men’s and women’s long jump. Joel Rathe placed 15th (22’ 9”) and Hayley Miles placed 24th (16’ 9 ¼”). On the track, there were a few athletes who came up short of the finals. It was agonizingly close for Adrianna Rodencal, who ran 8.59 in the 60-meter hurdles and placed ninth in the prelims (.01 seconds from eighth place). In addition, Jordan Koepke placed 14th in the 600 meters (1:36.76) and Rhaya Kaschinske placed 17th in the 1,000 meters (3:03.44).

All things considered, the Bulldogs came away pleased after day two of the meet. The Concordia women will be looking to push for a top-four finish and a team trophy while the men aim to remain amongst the top 10 as the meet comes to a finish on Saturday. The slate of Bulldog events for Saturday is listed below.

Said Beisel, “It’s gone really well for us. Some of the highlights are to be determined, but it’s a big deal to get relays to the finals on the women’s side and then have Jenna, Calvin, Kylahn and Rylee all reach finals. They have the potential to put some good points on the board for us. Having Chris Wren get national runner up in the weight throw was huge and Abi Wohlgemuth made All-American. We ended with Josie Puelz getting seventh in the pole vault. Those are the kind of pieces that need to fall into place to set us up for a really good final day.”

2024 NAIA Indoor All-Americans

·        Jenna Esch – 4x800m Relay (1st)

·        Kylahn Freiberg – 4x800m Relay (1st)

·        Rylee Haecker – 4x800m Relay (1st)

·        Julie McIntyre – 4x800m Relay (1st)

·        Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (7th)

·        Abi Wohlgemuth – Weight Throw (6th)

·        Chris Wren – Weight Throw (2nd)

Day 3 Concordia schedule:

NOTE: All races are finals.

Women’s Triple Jump (Saturday, 10:00 a.m.) – Hayley Miles, Josi Noble

Women’s Shot Put (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.) – Abigail Gerber

Women’s Mile (Saturday, 12:25 p.m.) – Kylahn Freiberg

Men’s Mile (Saturday, 12:35 p.m.) – Calvin Rohde

Men’s Pole Vault (Saturday, 1:15 p.m.) – Mayson Ostermeyer, Zach Zohner

Women’s High Jump (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.) – Zoey Walker

Women’s 800 Meters (Saturday, 2:10 p.m.) – Jenna Esch

Women’s 1,000 Meters (Saturday, 2:25 p.m.) – Rylee Haecker

Men’s Shot Put (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.) – Carson Fehlhafer, Darien Semedo

Women’s 4x400m Relay (Saturday, 4:55 p.m.) – Jenna Esch, Kayla Kirchner, Trinity Tuls, Jordan Koepke