Miles, Rodencal break records; Bulldogs pile up 18 auto marks in indoor opener

By Jacob Knabel on Dec. 9, 2023 in Track & Field

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Track & Field season started with a bang. The Bulldogs made a statement while hosting the Concordia Early Bird Meet on Friday and Saturday (Dec. 8-9) inside the Fieldhouse. Sophomores Hayley Miles and Adrianna Rodencal broke school records and Concordia athletes combined for an impressive tally of 18 NAIA automatic national qualifying standards and 16 event championships for the weekend. In addition, six NAIA ‘B’ standards were totaled at the Early Bird, which featured athletes from 13 institutions.

There was good reason for the wide grins that showed on the faces of Head Coach Matt Beisel and his assistant coaches at the conclusion of the meet. A year earlier, Concordia athletes achieved four auto standards at the Early Bird. The Bulldogs were keyed up to succeed at a high level at the 2023 meet.

“First of all, to God be the glory,” Beisel said. “I pray a lot for these guys and girls as they do their thing. Yesterday in the pentathlon and heptathlon and today in the main events, we had some really good things happen. It’s a big highlight any time a Concordia program standard is broken and we had that happen with Hayley and Adrianna. Those were two biggies, but I feel like across the board, in every event, we had personal bests, we had ‘B’ standards and we had automatic standards. It definitely shows that these athletes are putting in the work and that we have an awesome team culture.”

The Lincoln Lutheran alum Rodencal is working on building upon a freshman campaign that saw her earn GPAC Female Athlete of the Year awards for both indoor and outdoor. She starred in three different events on Saturday. She eclipsed her own school standard in the 60-meter hurdles, running 8.65 in the prelims and 8.57 in the finals. She placed second in that event while also claiming meet titles in the 60 meters (7.85) and the 200 meters (25.98).

Meanwhile, Miles surpassed a legendary figure in Concordia’s history, Carol Bailey, in the long jump. Miles landed at 19’ 4 ¼” in outperforming the previous standard of 19’ ¼” that had stood since 1989. The North Platte, Neb., native Miles took first in the long jump at the Early Bird and then placed third in the triple jump with a ‘B’ standard of 37’ 1 ¾.” It was a fine day overall for the horizontal jumpers as Joel Rathe qualified for nationals in the men’s long jump via a mark of 23’ 6 ¾” (third place), Josi Noble won the women’s triple jump (37’ 5 ¾”) and Jonah Paulsen took first in the men’s triple jump (45’ 3 ¾”). As for the high jump, freshman Zoey Walker cleared 5’ 6” in both the pentathlon and open competitions of the event. The triple jump marks for Miles and Noble met the ‘B’ standard.

Miles isn’t likely to forget this day. Said the St. Patrick’s High School alum, “It felt really good. I was really excited and I was like, ‘I wonder what this (mark) is.’ I was hoping to hit at least a ‘B’ standard and maybe an ‘A.’ I knew I was capable of it. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. It’s just really exciting to see.”

In terms of total national qualifying efforts on the weekend, junior Jenna Esch of Hastings, Neb., led the way. She turned in automatic times in the 400 meters (57.64), 600 meters (1:36.35) and as part of the 4x400 meter relay (3:57.82). Esch was also a meet winner in each of those events. She was joined in the 4x4 by Kayla Kirchner, Trinity Tuls and Jordan Koepke. An elite athlete in her own right, Koepke also qualified for nationals in the 600 meters.

Esch is on her way to another season of high achievement. Said Esch, “I’m very satisfied. It definitely felt great. I knew I wanted to do the six and the 4x4 and I just kind of threw the 400 in. It feels good to get automatic qualifying times in all of them … (the Early Bird) is actually one of my favorite meets. You do so much in the fall and it’s nice to see it pay off.”

The Bulldogs also did work in the throws. The auto marks were delivered by Abby Gerber in the weight throw (53’ 10 ½”) and shot put (45’ 9”), Kamryn Pokorney in the weight throw (53’ 7 ¾”), Chris Wren in the weight throw (64’ 5”) and Abi Wohlgemuth in the weight throw (58’ 10 ¼”). In addition, a ‘B’ standard was produced by freshman Nathan Baldwin in the shot put (50’ 5 ½”) and by both Austen Rozelle (56’ 4 ½”) and Brady Klute (56’ 2 ½”) in the weight throw. Wohlgemuth and Wren were meet champions in the weight throw.

Out of the pole vault came four automatic qualifiers. The 2023 NAIA indoor national runner up, Zach Zohner got over the bar at 16’ 7 ¼” and won the Early Bird title. As of Saturday, he’s the current national leader and a very real contender for a national title in 2024. On the women’s side, Amira Cummings, Josie Puelz and Sydney Reichert each cleared 11’ 8 ½” and have booked their tickets to Brookings, S.D., come late February. Of course, the expectations are always high for the five-time national champion Puelz, who spent the fall semester focused on student teaching.

Eight-time All-American Rylee Haecker wasted no time in qualifying for nationals as she ran 3:01.00 in the 1,000 meters and took first place in the event. Haecker is on the heels of running at the NAIA cross country national meet. So too is senior captain Calvin Rohde, who topped the field on Saturday in the 3,000 meters in a time of 8:48.36. Rohde also collaborated with Trey Robertson, Colby Sugden and Trevor Kuncl on a distance medley relay time of 10:24.58, just off a ‘B’ standard. Elsewhere on the track, Julie McIntyre was a winner in the women’s 3,000 meters (10:26.30) and Lauren Dawson posted a ‘B’ standard in the 3,000-meter race walk (17:23.31). Dawson competed at the 2023 outdoor national meet in the race walk.

The pentathlon unfolded on Friday. The freshman Walker placed second on the overall leaderboard with a point total of 3,091. She equaled a Fieldhouse pentathlon high jump record of 5’ 6.” Currently, Walker, Noble (3,088) and Amanda Steinke (3,043) are each listed among the top 10 pentathletes nationally this indoor season. In the men’s heptathlon, freshman Jackson Lindburg posted a converted total of 4,036 that places him at No. 13 in the NAIA.

Not previously mentioned performances that earned runner-up placements at the Early Bird came from Keegan Beisel (3,000 meters), Rhaya Kaschinske (1,000 meters) and Sugden (400 meters). A summary of the automatic national qualifying marks and first-place finishes can be found below.

In sum, this was exactly the meet Beisel and the staff of Ed McLaughlin, Mark Samuels, Ben Hinckfoot, Jason Berry and company could have hoped for. The auto standards were spread impressively throughout event groupings. Said Beisel, “Once we get started in the fall, we practice five days per week and they work together. They’re not sitting around eating candy and Doritos. They’re working hard and getting a lot done. The progressive training plan put together by our coaches has our athletes ready to go by this time. We don’t get everything we want in the first meet, but today was awesome.”

Automatic National Qualifiers

·        Women’s 4x400m Relay (3:57.82) – Esch, Kirchner, Tuls, Koepke

·        Amira Cummings – Pole Vault (11’ 8 ½”)

·        Jenna Esch – 400 Meters (57.64); 600 Meters (1:36.35)

·        Abigail Gerber – Weight Throw (53’ 10 ½”); Shot Put (45’ 9”)

·        Rylee Haecker – 1,000 Meters (3:01.00)

·        Jordan Koepke – 600 Meters (1:36.73)

·        Hayley Miles – Long Jump (19’ 4 ¼”)

·        Kamryn Pokorney – Weight Throw (53’ 7 ¾”)

·        Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (11’ 8 ½”)

·        Joel Rathe – Long Jump (23’ 6 ¾”)

·        Sydney Reichert – Pole Vault (11’ 8 ½”)

·        Adrianna Rodencal – 60 Hurdles (8.57)

·        Chris Wren – Weight throw (64’ 5”)

·        Zoey Walker – High Jump (5’ 6”)

·        Abi Wohlgemuth – Weight Throw (58’ 10 ¼”)

·        Zach Zohner – Pole Vault (16’ 7 ¼”)

Early Bird Event Champions

·        Men’s DMR (10:24.58) – Robertson, Sugden, Kuncl, Rohde

·        Lauren Dawson – 3,000m Racewalk (17:23.31)

·        Jenna Esch – 400 Meters (57.64); 600 Meters (1:36.35)

·        Rylee Haecker – 1,000 Meters (3:01.00)

·        Julie McIntyre – 3,000 Meters (10:26.30)

·        Hayley Miles – Long Jump (19’ 4 ¼”)

·        Josi Noble – Triple Jump (37’ 5’ ¾”)

·        Jonah Paulsen – Triple Jump (45’ 3 ¾”)

·        Adrianna Rodencal – 60 Meters (7.85); 200 Meters (25.98)

·        Calvin Rohde – 3,000 Meters (8:48.36)

·        Zoey Walker – High Jump (5’ 6”)

·        Abi Wohlgemuth – Weight Throw (58’ 10 ¼”)

·        Chris Wren – Weight throw (64’ 5”)

·        Zach Zohner – Pole Vault (16’ 7 ¼”)

Upon returning for the second semester, the Bulldogs will look forward to competing at the Graduate Classic hosted by the University of Nebraska and the Scott Nisely Memorial Classic hosted by Doane the weekend of Jan. 12-13. The next home meet on the slate is the Concordia Polar Dog Invite scheduled for Jan. 19.