SEWARD, Neb. – GPAC week has arrived. The Concordia University Track & Field program has navigated six meets, including four at home, over the course of an unusual indoor season. The format for this weekend’s GPAC Indoor Track & Field Championships is largely unchanged, other than the absence of spectators. Dordt will host the 2021 GPAC indoor meet inside the Recreation Center in Sioux Center, Iowa. Dordt last hosted the GPAC indoor championships in 2017.
2021 GPAC Indoor Track & Field Championships
Friday/Saturday, Feb. 19/20
Recreation Center | Sioux Center, Iowa (Dordt campus)
--Live Results: Dakota Timing
--Live Streaming: http://www.gpacsports.com/article/4799.php#.YC19amhKiM8
--NOTE: spectators are not allowed
The competition within the GPAC will be especially intense this weekend. Based on the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) NAIA rankings, the GPAC boasts seven top 25 teams on the men’s side and five top 25 squads on the women’s side. In last week’s edition of the national rankings, Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads landed at No. 2 for women and No. 4 for men. The Bulldogs have not budged from those positions in three rankings releases this indoor season.
At the 2020 GPAC indoor meet, Concordia again came away with the women’s banner while the men placed third. The women’s program is hoping to extend an active string of three-straight GPAC championships (2019 indoor/outdoor and 2020 indoor). Junior Rachel Battershell is the reigning GPAC Women’s Athlete of the Year having won conference titles last season in the 60 hurdles, 400 meters and as part of the 4x400 meter relay. Meanwhile, Cody Williams earned GPAC Men’s Athlete of the Year accolades courtesy of his performances at the 2019 GPAC outdoor championships.
In display of their dominance last season, the Concordia women claimed titles in seven of the 19 events. In addition to the championships Battershell played a role in, first-place finishes were turned in by Kylahn Heritage (3,000 meters), Kennedy Mogul (pentathlon), Josie Puelz (pole vault) and Addie Shaw (weight throw). Battershell was joined by on the 4x4 by Jacee Pfeifer, Sarah Lewis and Mogul. Jacob Cornelio also won the weight throw title on the men’s side. Battershell owns five career GPAC meet titles (three individual races) to her credit. Williams has been a GPAC champion four times, including his 2019 conference indoor heptathlon crown.
Battershell knows the expectations are high entering the weekend. Said the native of Wheatland, Wyo., “It’s been hard not to focus on my own expectations and what other people are thinking and hoping I might do. That’s been a big mental game and I’m definitely still learning. I’m really focused on competing, being present in the race and having fun. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
On the current GPAC performance lists, four Bulldogs hold down No. 1 spots: Battershell (400 meters), Heritage (mile), Puelz (pole vault) and Williams (heptathlon). Battershell and Williams could again be contenders for GPAC Athlete of the Meet honors. Concordia athletes collectively own 42 marks that rank in the top five on the GPAC performance lists. That figure ranks No. 1 in the GPAC.
Williams hopes to put everything together this weekend and show that he’s made it all the way back from last year’s injuries. Said Williams, “In the last year I’ve leaned on my teammates a lot more than I have previously. It’s been really hard to stay motivated, especially being a senior and coming off a foot surgery. Track’s not easy when you’ve had a foot injury that’s been lingering for years. I’m just going to take it day-by-day and make sure I’m where I need to be.”
The USTFCCCA rates the Bulldog men’s and women’s pole vault groups as the best in the nation. Coach Jason Berry’s women’s pole vaulters have had quite a run of GPAC titles in recent years. Going back to the 2014 GPAC outdoor championships, Concordia has won nine of the 12 GPAC women’s pole vault championships. Six different Bulldogs have contributed to that run: Allie Brooks (two), McKenzie Gravo (two), Erin Mapson (one), Puelz (one), Cassie Starks (two) and Shelby Yelden (one). While Puelz aims for her second conference pole vault title, Zach Bennetts hopes to be in the running on the men’s side.
Historically, Bulldog track and field has captured seven women’s conference titles and three men’s conference championships (along with 26 combined conference runner-up claims). Beisel has earned GPAC Women’s Track & Field Coach of the Year honors three times. He and Kregg Einspahr are the two coaches in program history to lead Concordia to a conference title. This current run represents the first time that either the Bulldog men’s or women’s programs have strung together three conference championships in a row.
Once the GPAC championships are in the books, focus will shift to the 2021 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships (March 3-6). The Ruth Donohoe First Dakota Fieldhouse in Yankton, S.D., will be the venue for the national meet for the first time. For additional meet info, check out the NAIA track and field page HERE.
Concordia all-time conference titles
MEN – indoor: 2014 | outdoor: 2014, 2015
WOMEN – indoor: 2010, 2019, 2020 | outdoor: 1998, 2010, 2012, 2019
Concordia all-time conference runner-up finishes
MEN – indoor: 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019 | outdoor: 2002, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017
WOMEN – indoor: 2003, 2005, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016 | outdoor: 2005, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Current Bulldogs with GPAC titles
Rachel Battershell – 5 (2020 indoor 60 hurdles; 2020 indoor 400 meters; 2020 indoor 4x400m relay; 2019 indoor 4x400m relay; 2019 outdoor 400 meters)
Kylahn Heritage – 1 (2020 indoor 3,000 meters)
Sarah Lewis – 2 (2020 indoor 4x400m relay; 2019 indoor 4x400m relay)
Erin Mapson – 1 (2019 outdoor pole vault)
Kennedy Mogul – 2 (2020 indoor pentathlon; 2020 indoor 4x400m relay)
Jacee Pfeifer – 2 (2020 indoor 4x400m relay; 2019 indoor 4x400m relay)
Josie Puelz – 1 (2020 indoor pole vault)
Cody Williams – 4 (2019 outdoor 110 hurdles; 2019 outdoor long jump; 2019 indoor heptathlon; 2018 outdoor decathlon)