YANKTON, S.D. – Junior Rachel Battershell achieved another mountaintop moment while helping lead Concordia University Women’s Track & Field to a national team trophy finish for the second straight year. Individual national titles from Battershell and Josie Puelz powered the Bulldogs to a final team finish of third place (49 points), marking the best ever indoor national finish for the women’s track program.
By meet’s end, 13 Concordia women had claimed an All-America award in at least one event. Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squad will bring an impressive collection of plaques back home to Seward.
Said Beisel, “Our ladies absolutely rocked it. We all know they have that capability and it still has to happen on the day it counts the most. They did that for conference and then they came back and did it over two days at nationals with a lot of crazy with the COVID-19 testing and everything else. It was a nationals meet unlike any other. In event after event we got All-Americans and All-Americans … I’m very thankful to God.”
Battershell is an all-timer as a competitor. After running the fifth-fastest race in the prelims of the 400 meters, Battershell rose to the occasion, rattled off a time of 56.03 in the finals and held off Dordt’s Emma Bakker (56.30). A year earlier, Battershell celebrated a championship in Brookings, S.D., when she clocked a school record 400 time of 54.77. At this point in her incredible career, greatness is expected of Battershell. She came through under pressure and proceeded to hug event coach Mark Samuels just past the finish line.
“Throughout the whole year, from last year to this year, it’s been on my mind a lot,” said Battershell of attempting to repeat in the 400. “It’s been hard for me to focus on just running my race instead of letting it get in my head what people expect and what I expect. Once I passed the finish line all I could think about was I’m so thankful God brought me into this moment.”
Battershell also did the honors of finishing off the meet for the women by galloping around the track as the anchor of the 4x400 meter relay. Battershell was joined in the finals by Sarah Lewis, Keri Bauer and Sydni Schernikau. They completed the race in 3:53.74 for a fifth-place claim. Just prior to the 4x4, Concordia’s distance medley relay checked in at 12:28.99 and placed fourth. The DMR consisted of Rylee Haecker, Kennedy Mogul, Grace Reiman and Kylahn Heritage. Those two relays accounted for nine team points.
The haul on Friday included three All-America awards from five qualifiers in the women’s throws. In the weight throw, senior Sarah Ragland saved her best for last – a massive PR of 57’ 9” on her final throw that propelled her from ninth place to a final finish of third. That effort allowed Ragland to claim the first All-America award of her career. She was rivaled closely by Morgan De Jong, the GPAC weight throw champion. De Jong reeled in her second career All-America honor by throwing 56’ 8.” Freshman Olivia Buschow also competed and turned in a mark of 51’ 10 ½” (14th).
A former basketball player at Concordia, Elle Luehr had limited college throwing experience entering this indoor season. Her development has been rapid under the tutelage of throws coach Ed McLaughlin. Luehr placed fifth with a toss of 44’ 9 ¾” in her first experience at a national meet. Teammate Abby Gerber turned in a new personal best 42’ 9” while just missing out on the finals.
“First and foremost, I have to say all glory to God,” Luehr said. “Knowing that I have all my teammates backing me up, even sitting at home even though they can’t be here cheering me on, it meant the world to experience this and have the opportunity to come here for nationals.”
The freshman Haecker has a bright career in front of her. She advanced to the finals of the 1,000 meters and ended up placing eighth (3:03.14). Haecker joined Battershell as one of two Bulldogs to have earned a 2021 All-America award in both an individual event and a relay.
Freshman Amy Richert was right on the cusp of All-America honors in both the pentathlon and high jump while placing ninth in both events. The native of Gresham, Neb., cleared the opening height of 5’ 1 ½” in the high jump. The next height (5’ 3 ½”) wound up being the cutoff for All-America honors.
In the long jump, sophomore Katie Severt (17’ 2 ¼”) and junior Jamey Broman (16’ 4 ¼”) placed 12th and 16th, respectively. Both Broman and Severt made the second national tournament appearances of their careers.
The major run of success motors along for the women’s track program, which placed fourth at the 2020 indoor national meet. Beisel has also guided the Bulldogs to four-straight GPAC titles. Concordia figures to be even better come outdoor season as two-time discus national champion Addie Shaw makes a return to action.
Men’s Heptathlon: The 2019 national runner up in the heptathlon, junior Cody Williams rose to second place in the 2021 overall heptathlon standings at the conclusion of the pole vault (sixth event). Williams then finished in third place with a total of 5,056 points. In Friday’s events, Williams won the 60 hurdles (8.33), placed third in the pole vault (14’ 11 ¼”) and 11th in the 1,000 meters (2:54.81). Williams was also the GPAC heptathlon champion.
The four-day meet will come to a conclusion on Saturday with the men wrapping up national championship action. Bulldog athletes will take part in the high jump, weight throw, distance medley relay and 4x400 meter relay. The Concordia men have currently totaled 12.5 team points thanks to Williams and All-American pole vaulters Zach Bennetts and Chase Berry.
2021 Indoor All-Americans
· Rachel Battershell – 400 meters (1st); 4x400m relay (5th)
· Keri Bauer – 4x400m relay (5th)
· Zach Bennetts – pole vault (5th)
· Chase Berry – pole vault (T-6th)
· Morgan De Jong – weight throw (5th)
· Rylee Haecker – DMR (4th); 1,000 meters (8th)
· Kylahn Heritage – DMR (4th)
· Sarah Lewis – 4x400m relay (5th)
· Elle Luehr – shot put (5th)
· Erin Mapson – pole vault (4th)
· Kennedy Mogul – DMR (4th)
· Josie Puelz – pole vault (1st)
· Sarah Ragland – weight throw (3rd)
· Grace Reiman – DMR (4th)
· Sydni Schernikau – 4x400m relay (5th)
· Cody Williams – heptathlon (3rd)
Saturday (March 6) Schedule
· 9:30 a.m. – High Jump (Wyatt Loga, Cody Williams)
· 12 p.m. – Weight Throw (Chris Wren)
· 3:25 p.m. – Distance Medley Relay (Calvin Rohde, Maccoy Menke, Christian Van Cleave, Camden Sesna)
· 3:45 p.m. – 4x400 Meter Relay (Jacob Jennings, Cade Kleckner, Colton Meyer, Henry Reimer)