GPAC women's title streak pushed to 11; Bulldogs earn 10 GPAC event championships

By Jacob Knabel on May. 5, 2024 in Track & Field

Day 1 Recap | Concordia T&F YouTube

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The latest GPAC title won by the women of Concordia University Track & Field came with more drama than usual. In the end, the Bulldogs enjoyed another victory lap while celebrating their 11th-consecutive GPAC championship. The winning 4x4 relay clinched the team title in helping put a bow on the 2024 GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships (May 3-4) hosted in Orange City, Iowa, by Northwestern. Concordia athletes combined to win 10 GPAC event titles (six on the women’s side and four on the men’s side).

In addition to the women placing first with 209.5 points, Head Coach Matt Beisel’s men’s squad landed in third place with 139 points. The list of conference champions for the Bulldogs included the women’s 4x4 as well as Matthew Boyer, Kylahn Freiberg, Abby Gerber, Jordan Koepke, Josi Noble, Adrianna Rodencal, Darien Semedo, Chris Wren and Zach Zohner.

“There was a point with about four or five events left where Coach (Mark) Samuels and I were going, ‘I don’t know if there’s a pathway to win at this point,’” Beisel said. “We needed something really special to happen in order for that to occur. You never give up, but it was looking pretty bleak. God is good no matter what the outcome … Then the shot put results started coming in, and it was like, ‘oh my goodness.’ It would have been for naught if those points throughout the meet hadn’t happened. It set the stage for kind of a miraculous thing to happen. As stressful as it is, this is what college athletics is about."

The women’s championship streak appeared to be in serious jeopardy late in the meet as Doane held a 198.5 to 187.5 lead in the team scoring with only the shot put and 4x4 left to be scored. Gerber came up huge in vaulting to the top of the shot put leaderboard with tosses of 47’ ¼” and 47’ 4 ½” in the finals. The 12 team points in the shot put set the stage for Concordia to seize another banner. One of the program’s staples, the 4x4, polished off the win by clocking a first-place time of 3:50.97. The crew featured Jenna Esch, Kayla Kirchner, Trinity Tuls and Koepke.

Every point was needed as the rival Tigers tallied 204.5 points of their own. The first individual champion of the day came from first-time titlist Josi Noble, who finished the heptathlon in style – with a GPAC heptathlon meet record time of 2:21.69 in the 800 meters. Noble piled up 4,655 points while leading a loaded field of teammates in the event. The women’s heptathletes combined for 30 team points as Amy Richert placed second, Zoey Walker third, Emma Kucera sixth, Faith Espinosa seventh and Elena Batenhorst eighth.

A team championship was also made possible with the help of the aforementioned titles produced by Freiberg in the 1,500 meters (4:40.39), Koepke in the 400 hurdles (1:01.25) and Rodencal in the 100 hurdles (13.99). The fifth-year Bulldog Freiberg claimed her third career GPAC title in what has been a stellar run. Meanwhile, Koepke is now a seven-time GPAC champion (including the relays) and Rodencal, the 2023 GPAC Women’s Indoor/Outdoor Athlete of the Year, is a four-time conference champ.

On the men’s side of things, the 139 points scored were a significant increase from the 112 points they tallied at the 2023 conference outdoor meet. Concordia piled up 70 points on Friday alone as Boyer (javelin), Wren (hammer throw) and Zohner (pole vault) each won GPAC championships. The men’s hammer amassed 30 team points while the men’s pole vault contributed 22 points. It was a big meet for Semedo, who won the GPAC shot put title on Saturday with a mark of 54’ 10 ¼,” one day after he placed third in the hammer (185’ 2”).

Said Beisel of the men’s performances, “All of the guys felt really good about their efforts. We put more points on the board to get third than we’ve done in a long time. That’s a sign of progress. It got kicked off by the hammer guys knocking off 30 points on Friday and then the pole vault sealing the deal with 22 points. Then we had Jack Ellis and Thomas Gorline step up big in the 10k. We had 70 points after day one. Our guys feel good about their team effort, and they should. This is the kind of stuff that’s going to lead us to winning that banner for the guys as well.”

The Bulldog weekend list of GPAC runners up included the women’s 4x100-meter relay, Freiberg (5,000 meters), Luke Hammang (5,000-meter racewalk), Mayson Ostermeyer (pole vault), Richert (heptathlon), Calvin Rohde (1,500 meters), Austen Rozelle (discus) and Gretchen Stottlemyre (javelin). Worthy of note, the throwers added three fresh automatic national qualifying standards via Kamryn Pokorney in the shot put (44’ 8”), Gerber in the hammer (169' 7") and both Emma Lloyd (144’ 7”) and Austen Rozelle (165’ 4”) in the discus.

The Lincoln Lutheran alum Rodencal was her usual busy self. In addition to winning the 100 hurdles, she placed third in the 200 meters, seventh in 100 meters and second as part of the 4x1. A mega star in 2024, Esch helped the 4x4 to a title and placed third in the 400 meters, fourth in the 200 meters and eighth in the 800 meters. A seven-time GPAC champion individually, Rylee Haecker placed third in the 1,500 meters on Saturday in the final conference meet of her storied career.

Not previously mentioned third-place finishers were Amira Cummings and Sydney Reichert (pole vault), Gerber (hammer throw), Carson Fehlhafer (shot put), Trevor Kuncl (1,500 meters), Lloyd (discus), Kiki Nyanok (long jump) and Nathan Pennekamp (3,000-meter steeplechase).

The championship run has spanned the careers of every current women’s athlete in the program and dates back to the 2019 GPAC indoor championships. The indoor title this season came at Mount Marty.

2024 GPAC Outdoor Champions

·        Matthew Boyer – Javelin (200’ 8”)

·        Jenna Esch – 4x400m Relay (3:50.97)

·        Kylahn Freiberg – 1,500 Meters (4:40.39)

·        Abby Gerber – Shot Put (47’ 4 ½”)

·        Kalya Kirchner – 4x400m Relay (3:50.97)

·        Jordan Koepke – 400m Hurdles (1:01.25); 4x400m Relay (3:50.97)

·        Josi Noble – Heptathlon (4,665 points)

·        Adrianna Rodencal – 100m Hurdles (13.99)

·        Darien Semedo – Shot Put (54’ 10 ¼”)

·        Trinity Tuls – 4x400m Relay (3:50.97)

·        Chris Wren – Hammer Throw (203’ 11”)

·        Zach Zohner – Pole Vault (15’ 9”)

Though the conference championships are in the books, the Bulldogs will compete in two meets next weekend. They will host the Concordia Twilight on May 10 before taking part in the University of Nebraska-Kearney Loper Twilight on May 11. The tentative meet schedule for the Concordia Twilight can be found HERE.