BROOKINGS, S.D. – Josie Puelz rose to the top of the mountain once again while boosting the Bulldog women’s team into first place at the end of two days at the 2022 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships. Following Amy Richert’s All-America effort in the pentathlon on Thursday, nine additional Concordia athletes were officially recognized as All-America award winners on Friday (March 4). More than 30 Bulldog athletes made the trip to the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings, S.D., site of the national meet.
After six events scored, Head Coach Matt Beisel’s women’s team sits in first place on the NAIA national leaderboard. Meanwhile, the men have totaled 8.5 points and are situated in 11th place. The finals of nearly all running events will take place on Saturday. In addition, to Puelz in the pole vault, All-Americans on Friday included Keri Bauer, Morgan De Jong, Rylee Haecker, Kylahn Heritage, Wyatt Loga, Erin Mapson, Grace Reiman and Chris Wren.
“I always feel a lot of joy when I see these kids who work so hard end up accomplishing what they did today,” Beisel said. “I was incredibly grateful to God for the gifts we’ve been given. As a coach, I love seeing the togetherness our team shows with each other. They were cheering for each other and praying for each other. I’m grateful we get to work with such great young men and women.
The expectations are enormous for Puelz, who somehow keeps meeting them. It came down to Puelz, Mapson and Laikyn Kulman of Aquinas College (Mich.) as the three finalists. With everyone else eliminated, Puelz cleared 13’ ¼” and then went over 13’ 5 ¼” in the process of breaking her own school record – again. She also took three shots at 13’ 9 ¾,” which would have broken the NAIA indoor national championship meet record. As for Mapson, she battled through a sore hamstring on her way to placing third with a vault of 12’ 4 ½.” Puelz and Mapson put 16 team points on the board with their placements.
Said Beisel, “Nothing is guaranteed and Josie knows that better than anybody. To have our vaulters go first and third was fantastic and a huge piece of the scoring we needed in order to walk away with a team trophy.”
There really are no limits for the Lincoln Lutheran alum Puelz. At this point, it’s just a matter of keeping her mental edge. Said Puelz, “It is what you make of it. There certainly is a lot of pressure and expectations that come with it, so that caused a little bit of stress. Having Erin here to be encouraged by so my focus isn’t on myself is just wonderful. It made today really good.”
Concordia’s women’s 4x800 meter relay far exceeded its ranking of ninth nationally coming into the meet. The group showed that Thursday’s season best (fourth fastest time in school history) was no fluke. On Friday, Haecker, Heritage, Reiman and Bauer combined on a time of 9:16.78, putting them in third place (six team points). It’s been a particularly stellar meet for the Davenport, Neb., native Haecker, who also clocked a personal best time of 2:55.36 in the prelims of the 1,000 meters (third fastest). She will run in the finals of the event on Saturday.
On the men’s side of things, two Bulldogs are officially All-Americans. Wren claimed an All-America award in the weight throw for the second year in a row while landing a mark of 65’ 2.” Teammate Andy Amos placed 16th (56’ ½”). Both Wren and Amos understand what it’s like competing against elite competition, as they do all season within the GPAC. Five of the top six in the weight throw were from GPAC schools.
Said Wren, “In the finals, six of us were from the GPAC. It was a good representation of the GPAC. Same people, different meet. It was a lot of fun … It was good to do it again (get on the podium). We’ll see if we can keep it up.”
Another who outperformed his seed mark was Loga, a native of Bee, Neb. Loga tied for fifth on a day when he was successful on each of his three attempts in the high jump. He cleared 6’ 8 ½” before coming up short in his effort to break the school record. Loga is a two-time NAIA All-American.
Concordia had three competitors on the women’s side of the weight throw. De Jong briefly led the competition in the third flight before finishing in fifth place with a mark of 57’ 5 ¾.” The GPAC champion De Jong has claimed three All-America plaques in her five career trips to national meets. Teammates Sarah Ragland (11th; 54’ 2 ½”) and Abby Gerber (scratch) fell shy of reaching the finals.
While still relatively new to the 600 meters, Koepke has proven a natural at it. The Gulf Breeze, Fla., native secured a spot in Saturday's finals by clocking in at 1:34.60 on Friday. That time allowed her to win heat one and was good for the third fastest time in the prelims. Koepke will also run as part of the 4x400 meter relay on Saturday. Also in the 600 meters, Bauer placed 11th (1:35.70) and Jacee Pfeifer finished 16th (1:44.56).
A two-time national champion in the 400 meters, Rachel Battershell came on strong as the indoor season progressed after she fought through injury. On the same track she broke the 400 meter school record in 2020, Battershell ran a time of 57.44 this time, placing her 17th. Teammate Sarah Lewis also ran the 400 and crossed the finish line in 58.35 (20th) place. As part of the 60 meter hurdles, Lewis finished in 9.10 and placed 27th.
The Bulldogs had a competitor in both the men’s and women's miles. A star on the track all season, Calvin Rohde placed 13th while finishing in 4:16.44. On the women’s side, the former All-GPAC cross country runner Heritage turned in a PR of 5:07.63 and placed 12th. Heritage picked up an All-America award as part of the 4x8.
Finally, Richert returned to action in the open long jump on Friday and landed in at 17’ 4” (22nd). The previous day, the Gresham, Neb., native placed sixth in the pentathlon. Richert will also compete in the high jump on Saturday.
“I’m so excited to see what’s going to happen on Saturday,” Beisel said. “This is a lot more fun than last year when the men and women were segregated (due to COVID-19 protocols). It’s just been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
2022 Indoor All-Americans
· Keri Bauer – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Morgan De Jong – weight throw (5th)
· Rylee Haecker – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Kylahn Heritage – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Wyatt Loga – high jump (5th)
· Erin Mapson – pole vault (3rd)
· Josie Puelz – pole vault (1st)
· Grace Reiman – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Amy Richert – pentathlon (6th)
· Chris Wren – weight throw (4th)
Saturday (March 5) Concordia Schedule
· Women’s Shot Put | 11 a.m. – Jordyn Anderson, Abby Gerber
· Men’s Pole Vault | 1:15 p.m. – Zach Bennetts, Chase Berry
· Women’s 600 Meters (finals) | 1:25 p.m. – Jordan Koepke
· Women’s High Jump | 1:30 p.m. – Hannah Newton, Amy Richert
· Women’s 1,000 Meters (finals) | 2:25 p.m. – Rylee Haecker
· Women’s 4x400m Relay (finals) | 4:55 p.m. – Sarah Lewis, Jordan Koepke, Jacee Pfeifer, Rachel Battershell
· Men’s 4x400m Relay (finals) | 5:15 p.m. – Jacob Jennings, Cade Kleckner, Colton Meyer, Maccoy Menke