Day 2 Recap: Puelz seizes fifth pole vault title, Mapson earns spot on podium

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 3, 2023 in Track & Field

Day 1 Recap | LIVE RESULTS

BROOKINGS, S.D. – The celebrations never grow tired. At the end of a long pole vault competition that featured 32 entrants, Josie Puelz reigned supreme once again. The Lincoln Lutheran alum has already earned legendary status while seizing the fifth NAIA pole vault national title of her career. That performance highlighted day two of the 2023 NAIA Track & Field National Championships for Concordia, which had 22 athletes compete in Brookings, S.D., on Friday (March 3).

The national title for Puelz and the seventh-place pole vault claim by teammate Erin Mapson put 12 team points on the board for the GPAC champion Bulldog women. Driven by her own pursuit of excellence, Puelz places plenty of pressure upon herself to achieve greatness.

Said Puelz, “I was very, very nervous coming into today. No nationals is ever the same. This is the lowest (seed) I’ve ever had coming into nationals, which was different. I think it gave me a great opportunity to persevere and show up today. I’m so grateful. The Lord provides adrenaline for a reason. The fact He kept it going this whole day and got me through the whole competition was phenomenal. This is a big relief to have done it again, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.”

That’s right, nerves are part of the deal, even for someone who had already won four national titles. This time around, Puelz was seeded third entering the national meet. Considering her past accomplishment, it’s difficult to call her an underdog. Puelz said she had nothing to prove, but the 13’ ¼” vault was her way of signaling she’s still No. 1. In the same competition, Mapson cleared 12’ ½” and placed seventh, marking the sixth All-America award in her also impressive career. The only athlete in Concordia women’s track & field history with more national titles than Puelz is Carol Bailey, who recorded eight individual NAIA championships.

The Bulldogs are as deep as any program in the nation in the pole vault. Puelz and Mapson had company from Erin Boggs (14th; 11’ 8 ½”), Kayla Svoboda (16th; 11’ 6 ¾”) and Amira Cummings (20th; 11’ 2 ¾”) in the event. Boggs and Svoboda made their first career appearances at the national championships. Boggs came away with a new personal best.

Most significant on the track, Kylahn Freiberg and Rylee Haecker both ran times below three minutes while qualifying for the finals of the 1,000 meters. In a preliminary round that included three heats and 20 total runners, Haecker placed sixth in a time of 2:59.97 while Freiberg ran slightly faster (2:59.78) and was credited with eighth place in the prelims (four place in her heat). Haecker (six) and Freiberg (three) entered this weekend with a combined nine career All-America awards.

There were a number of Bulldogs who missed out on the finals of their events but still managed to run solid times. There were close calls for Jenna Esch in the 600 meters (ninth place; 1:35.17) and by Camden Sesna in the mile (11th; 4:14.88). Sesna’s time in the mile represented a personal best and ranks in the top 10 in school history. The time for Esch was also a PR.

A deep group of Concordia weight throwers were on display on Friday. Unfortunately, each of them placed outside of All-America territory. The competitors on the men’s side were Chris Wren (11th; 57’ 10 ¼”), Dagne’ Buck (17th; 55’ 11 ¾”) and Darien Semedo (29th; 53’ 4 ¼”). The total field numbered 37 men’s athletes. Wren had hoped to add to his career total of three All-America awards. On the women’s side, the Bulldogs were represented by Maddie Robinson (11th; 53’ 7 ½”), Abi Wohlgemuth (17th; 52’ 8 ¾”) and Kamryn Pokorney (22nd; 50’ 10 ¼”). There were 29 entrants on the women’s side.

Elsewhere, Wyatt Loga and Joel Rathe wore the Concordia colors in their respective jumps events. This was the first career nationals appearance for Rathe, who wound up in 21st place with his mark of 22’ 4 ¼.” A two-time All-American high jumper, Loga came up short in his three attempts at clearing 6’ 5.”

Other Bulldogs who ran preliminary races (and did not qualify for finals) on Friday were Rachel Battershell in the 400 meters (17th; 58.75), Jordan Koepke in the 600 meters (21st; 1:40.77), Colton Meyer in the 400 meters (15th; 48.46), Calvin Rohde in the 1,000 meters (14th; 2:29.55) and GPAC Athlete of the Year Adrianna Rodencal in the 60 hurdles (16th; 8.80) and the 200 meters (28th; 25.63). Battershell carries two prior national titles in the 400 meters.

The 2023 indoor national meet will wrap up on Saturday. The first action from a Concordia perspective will be the women’s shot put starting at 11:30 a.m. CT. The Bulldogs will be represented in six total events throughout the day. The Bulldogs will put a cap on the meet with the women’s 4x400 meter relay early in the evening.

Saturday (March 4) schedule:

·        Women’s Shot Put (Saturday, 11:30 am) – Abby Gerber, Maddie Robinson

·        Men’s Pole Vault (Saturday, 1:15 pm) – Zach Bennetts, Chase Berry, Zach Zohner

·        Women’s High Jump (Saturday, 1:30 pm) – Hannah Newton, Amy Richert

·        Men’s Shot Put (Saturday, 2:00 pm) – Darien Semedo

·        Women’s 1,000 Meters Finals (Saturday, 2:25 pm) – Kylahn Freiberg, Rylee Haecker

·        Women’s 4x400m Relay Finals (Saturday, 4:55 pm) – Jenna Esch, Jordan Koepke, Trinity Tuls, Rachel Battershell

2023 NAIA Indoor All-Americans

·        Erin Mapson – Pole Vault (7th)

·        Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (1st)