Concordia T&F YouTube (includes race videos)
BROOKINGS, S.D. – The elite nature of Concordia University Track & Field on the women’s side is firmly established. By weekend’s end, the program celebrated a third straight top-four NAIA indoor national finish. Lifted by the pole vault national title from Josie Puelz and four third-place event finishes, the Bulldogs took home the third-place team trophy from the 2022 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships. Meanwhile, the Concordia men’s team placed 36th in the three-day meet held at the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings, S.D.
When the dust settled, 18 Bulldogs earned All-America awards in at least one event. Head Coach Matt Beisel’s women’s team accumulated 45 points while the men’s team tallied 9.5 points.
“It’s all God,” Beisel said. “It’s been going through my head every single day. We have had so many cool things happen. We want the best to happen at the most important meets. Day after day, athlete after athlete, event after event, we saw personal bests and near school records. They knocked it out of the park. We’re so proud of them. To get third again, I’m not taking that for granted. This is something that is a true blessing. On the guys’ side we had great performances. It wasn’t enough to get us on the trophy stand, but that is to come. We are always working towards that.”
Officially, nine more Bulldogs became All-Americans on the third and final day of the meet. That list included the 4x400 meter relays of Jacob Jennings, Cade Kleckner, Colton Meyer and Maccoy Menke on the men’s side and Sarah Lewis, Jordan Koepke, Jacee Pfeifer and Rachel Battershell on the women’s side. In addition, Koepke and Rylee Haecker garnered All-America placements in individual races while both coming within an eyelash of new school records.
Koepke of Gulf Breeze, Fla., is already a star as a freshman. She ran a personal best of 1:34.60 in the prelims of the 600 meters on Friday. She came back on Saturday with an even faster time of 1:33.24, putting her third in the NAIA (.02 seconds out of second). It was the second best 600 meters ever run by a Bulldog. The school record of 1:32.92 is held by Kim Wood.
Said Koepke, “I couldn’t believe it. I was really tired coming into today after the 4x4 and the 600 (prelims) the past two days. Still being kind of new to this, I just gave it everything that I had and it worked out. I was beyond excited and thankful for everything.”
She still had enough left in the tank to run a stellar leg for the 4x4 that closed out the meet. The women’s 4x4 relay clocked a finals time of 3:48.85 and placed fifth. Only the 3:47.39 run by the Bulldogs in 2020 ranks higher on the school’s all-time list. Battershell, Lewis and Pfeifer were also part of that performance two years ago. Between the three of them, they possess a combined 22 career All-America awards (nine for Battershell).
As for the men’s 4x4, that group put it together at the right time. Concordia had entered the meet seeded 16th and managed to make the finals with a season best prelims time of 3:16.54. A finals time of 3:17.65 put the Bulldogs in eighth place. For a group not expected to be there on Saturday evening, it was a rewarding feeling.
Said Jennings, “We were coming in ranked 16th out of 16. I knew we didn’t have a lot of expectations on us, but everybody ran some of the best races they’ve ever had. It all just came together on the right day, right time.”
In her second collegiate season, Haecker put forth an indoor campaign to remember. The GPAC champion in both the mile and the 1,000 meters, Haecker clocked a personal best in the 1,000 on Saturday by finishing in 2:53.68. That time put her in third place at the national meet and was just off the school record of 2:53.46 by Kim Wood in 2015. A day earlier, Haecker also helped the 4x800 meter relay to a third-place claim. Haecker’s career All-America count has grown to four.
Said Haecker, “God is good. This atmosphere is so fun with great competition that we don’t really see often. It’s fun to go out and compete with them and to compete for each other. We changed our training up a little bit (compared to last year). I kept putting in work. Eighth-place finish (in 2021) – I wasn’t satisfied with that. I always had that in the back of my mind in outdoor and during our cross training. I wanted to get back and better my placement. Thanks be to God.”
Returning All-Americans from last year’s national indoor meet, Zach Bennetts and Chase Berry were in action in the pole vault. Bennetts cleared 14’ 11,” 15’ 3” and 15’ 5” before coming up short on 15’ 7.” He wound up in ninth place based on number of attempts and just missed out on another All-America plaque. Meanwhile, Berry vaulted 14’ 11” before three unsuccessful tries at 15’ 3.”
In Saturday’s women’s shot put competition, Jordyn Anderson (41’ 7”) placed 14th and Abby Gerber placed 15th (41’ 4 ¼”). Both came up short of qualifying for the finals. Two GPAC throwers wound up with All-America honors in the shot put (including the national champion). The Concordia throws crew came away from the weekend with two All-America awards, courtesy of Morgan De Jong and Chris Wren in the weight throw.
As part of her grueling weekend that saw her compete in the pentathlon (All-American) on Thursday and the long jump on Friday, Amy Richert gave it her best shot in the high jump but came up empty on three tries at 5’ 3.” In her first experience at nationals, Hannah Newton was also unable to clear the opening height in the high jump.
On Saturday, Keri Bauer and Jacob Jennings were named Concordia’s 2022 NAIA Champions of Character honorees. A national qualifying member of each men’s and women's team was recognized with the award, which recognizes student-athletes who represent exemplary character in regards to the NAIA’s five core values.
Members of Concordia Track & Field will enjoy a few weeks break from competition before returning to action for outdoor season with the Grand View Vikings Relays on March 26. The national meet for outdoor will again be held in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 25-27.
2022 Indoor All-Americans
· Rachel Battershell – 4x400m relay (5th)
· Keri Bauer – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Morgan De Jong – weight throw (5th)
· Rylee Haecker – 1,000 meters (3rd); 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Kylahn Heritage – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Jacob Jennings – 4x400m relay (8th)
· Cade Kleckner – 4x400m relay (8th)
· Jordan Koepke – 600 meters (3rd); 4x400m relay (5th)
· Sarah Lewis – 4x400m relay (5th)
· Wyatt Loga – high jump (5th)
· Erin Mapson – pole vault (3rd)
· Maccoy Menke – 4x400m relay (8th)
· Colton Meyer – 4x400m relay (8th)
· Jacee Pfeifer – 4x400m relay (5th)
· Josie Puelz – pole vault (1st)
· Grace Reiman – 4x800m relay (3rd)
· Amy Richert – pentathlon (6th)
· Chris Wren – weight throw (4th)