Esch shines on the track, Bulldogs win six event titles at Dutcher Memorial

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 23, 2023 in Track & Field

CRETE, Neb. – Mild conditions that featured light winds were a welcome change of pace on Sunday (April 23) as the nationally ranked Concordia University Track & Field squads engaged in competition at the annual Jim Dutcher Memorial Classic hosted by Doane. For some Bulldogs, the meet actually represented their first action of the outdoor season. Most notably, sophomore Jenna Esch took advantage of the conditions while clocking a fresh automatic national qualifying standard in the 400 meters. She also helped the 4x400 meter relay run an ‘A’ standard.

In sum, Concordia came away with six event championships at the Dutcher Memorial, which was loaded with many of the very best track programs the state of Nebraska has to offer. The outing marked the fifth meet of the 2023 outdoor season.

“My distance kids ran super well and had phenomenal performances,” Beisel said. “We were eagerly anticipating today and had a lot of personal bests in events like the sprints, hurdles, distance and mid-distance. It was a great decision to move this meet to Sunday. There was little to no wind – it was beautiful out. There was really great competition with Nebraska Wesleyan and Kearney (UNK) there, plus Hastings, Doane and Midland. They brought it. Our kids stepped up and performed.

“We were waiting for this day to come because we lost all the running events last week and a lot of our team went home for Easter. This was Rachel Battershell’s first meet and it was Liam Fagan’s first meet of the whole season. Everyone was glad to get a meet under our belts in good conditions.”

The two-time All-American Esch blazed to a personal best of 56.74 in the 400 meters and placed third out of field of 25 runners. Esch was followed in the top five of the event by teammates in Trinity Tuls (58.17) and Rachel Battershell (58.31). Later in the evening, that trio, in addition to Kayla Kirchner, produced an automatic national qualifying time of 3:53.60 in the 4x400 meter relay. That time placed the Bulldogs in first by more than six seconds (four total 4x4s in the meet).

Additional first-place finishes were turned in this weekend by the women’s 4x800 meter relay, Carson Fehlhafer (discus), Kylahn Freiberg (5,000 meters), Josie Puelz (pole vault) and Adrianna Rodencal (100 hurdles). Second-place claims at the Dutcher Memorial were made by the women’s 4x100 meter relay, Amy Richert (heptathlon), Rodencal (100 meters), Calvin Rohde (1,500 meters). Fehlhafer hit the ‘B’ standard in the discus for the first time while landing a toss of 159 feet. As for Rodencal, she came up just shy of her own school record in the 100 hurdles while crossing the finish line in 14.17.

The likes of Freiberg, Rylee Haecker, Rohde and Camden Sesna continue to pace the distance crew. In the 1,500 meters, both Rohde (3:55.41) and Haecker (4:43.28) were within striking distance of the ‘B’ standard. They were pushed by teammates such as Keegan Beisel (4:46.10) on the women’s side and Sesna (3:56.46) on the men’s side. Haecker and Beisel teamed up with Rhaya Kaschinske and Hannah Beintema on a first-place 4x8 time of 9:50.09. Freiberg’s winning time in the 5,000 meters clocked in at 18:04.47.

For the second week in a row, Chris Wren eclipsed the ‘A’ standard in the hammer throw. His toss this weekend came in at 189’ 10” (third place). Darien Semedo (176’ 8”) placed fifth in the hammer. On the women’s side of the hammer, Kamryn Pokorney produced a ‘B’ standard (161’ 1”; seventh place) with Alli Owings (158’ 11”) just behind her. A consistent top place finisher this season in the javelin, Matthew Boyer threw 176’ 2” and placed fifth at the Dutcher Memorial. Pokorney and Semedo also emerged as the team’s top performers in the shot put.

The most significant effort from the jumps came from All-American Wyatt Loga, who cleared a ‘B’ standard of 6’ 8 ¾” in the high jump and placed fifth. Elsewhere in the jumps, Joel Rathe placed fourth in the long jump (21’ 11”) and Hayley Miles placed fourth in the triple jump (34’ 5 ½”).

The Lincoln Lutheran alum Rodencal also lent her services to the 4x1, which clocked a ‘B’ standard of 47.92. The group featured Rodencal along with Battershell, Kirchner and Kellie Rhodes. Kirchner was a third-place finisher in the 200 meters (26.08). Finally, in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, Concordia was led by Kaia Richmond (12:06.47; third place) on the women’s side and Nathan Pennekamp (9:48.88; fourth place) on the men’s side.

In the season's first heptathlon competition, Richert placed as the meet's runner up with 4,106 points. She was one of four Bulldogs to hit the minimum national reporting standard of 3,900. The others to accomplish that feat were Amanda Steinke (4,040), Faith Espinosa (3,997) and Josi Noble (3,974).

Automatic National Qualifying Standards

·        Women’s 4x400m Relay (3:53.60); Esch, Kirchner, Tuls, Battershell

·        Jenna Esch – 400 Meters (56.74)

·        Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 7 ½”)

·        Adrianna Rodencal – 100 Hurdles (14.17)

·        Chris Wren – Hammer Throw (189’ 10”)

Dutcher Memorial Event Titles

·        Women’s 4x400m Relay (3:53.60); Esch, Kirchner, Tuls, Battershell

·        Women’s 4x800m Relay (9:50.09); Haecker, Kaschinske, Beisel, Beintema

·        Carson Fehlhafer – Discus (159’)

·        Kylahn Freiberg – 5,000 Meters (18:04.47)

·        Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 7 ½”)

·        Adrianna Rodencal – 100 Hurdles (14.17)

This coming week, Concordia will be represented at the Drake Relays (April 27-29) and at the Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolf Invite (April 28-29). Those meets will be the precursor to the GPAC Championships (May 5-6) hosted by Dordt. Held annually in Des Moines, Iowa, by Drake University, the Drake Relays serve as a showcase event for athletes nationwide across all college divisions. More details about the Drake Relays can be found HERE.