MARION, Ind. – Another national meet saw Josie Puelz right in the hunt for another pole vault national title as day one action unfolded in Marion, Ind., home to Indiana Wesleyan University. Puelz ultimately settled for runner-up status in a tight battle with British Columbia's Sonya Urbanowicz at the 2023 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships on Wednesday (May 24). A total of 19 Bulldogs represented Concordia University Track & Field on the first of three days in Marion. The NAIA outdoor meet shifted to Indiana after it had been held in Gulf Shores, Ala., since 2014.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads entered the national meet with NAIA national rankings of eighth on the women’s side and 24th on the men’s side. The Concordia women got their first team points of the meet courtesy of Puelz and her continued greatness.
Puelz is the leader of one of the nation’s best vault crews. Owner of five pole vault national titles, Puelz gave it her best shot on Wednesday and came through with a vault of 12’ 9 ½,” putting her in first place at the time. Urbanowicz then gained the upper hand when she went over 12’ 11 ½,” securing the championship. The runner-up claim gave Puelz the seventh All-America award of her incredible career. This was the first time since the 2020 NAIA indoor meet that someone other than Puelz claimed the women’s vault title. The gracious Puelz gave credit to her competition in the aftermath of the latest nationals outing.
“In (tense) moments like those, I thank the Lord for a competitive spirit and for Coach (Jason) Berry and all he’s done to support me. It was great competition – so fun. Sonya was a phenomenal competitor. I really admire her a lot. I was proud of how I handled some stressful attempts. That was the highlight of the day.”
The Lincoln Lutheran alum Puelz was joined in the vault by three national qualifying teammates in Erin Mapson, Erin Boggs and Kayla Svoboda. A freshman from Wisner, Neb., Svoboda cleared 11’ 3 ¾” on Wednesday and placed 14th. Meanwhile, Boggs and Mapson were unsuccessful on three attempts at that same height. That meant the end of the line for Mapson, a six-time NAIA All-American and another key figure behind the string of nine consecutive GPAC titles for the Concordia women’s program. While Puelz and Mapson have been the standard bearers as program veterans, vault coach Jason Berry sees a bright future for Boggs and Svoboda. Puelz got emotional in discussing her teammates. Said Puelz, “It makes me teary-eyed. I adore the people I get to jump with. They make the experience so valuable, and I love them to death. I’m so proud of how far they’ve come this year.”
A combined four Bulldogs competed in the hammer throw on Wednesday. Darien Semedo led the charge for the men’s team. He placed 14th out of 19 national qualifiers with a throw of 175’ 6.” Three-time All-American Chris Wren did not compete as he and his wife await the birth of their child. As for the women, Abi Wohlgemuth (167’ 2”), Kamryn Pokorney (162’) and Alli Owings (152’ 4”) placed 15th, 19th and 27th, respectively. Because of its depth, Concordia was rated as having top-two event groupings nationally in both the men’s and women’s hammer this outdoor season.
It was a fine day for junior Rylee Haecker, who has qualified for Friday’s finals in the 1,500 meters. The seven-time NAIA All-American placed fifth in her heat and eighth overall in the prelims by running a season best of 4:39.87. Her personal best of 4:36.96 was achieved in an All-America performance at the 2022 outdoor national meet. In the evening, Haecker returned to the track with her 4x800 meter relay teammates and combined on a 12th-place finish in the prelims. The group finished in 9:23.18 and just missed out on qualifying for finals. The 4x8 was made up of Keegan Beisel, Kylahn Freiberg, Rhaya Kaschinske and Haecker. The fastest split of 2:18.33 was turned in by Freiberg.
In the women’s 4x100 meter relay, the Bulldogs also came up shy of qualifying for the finals. They placed 17th in a preliminary time of 47.65 (a bit slower than the school record of 47.40 achieved this season). The 4x1 featured Rachel Battershell, Kayla Kirchner, Kellie Rhodes and Adrianna Rodencal. Both Battershell and Rodencal will be back at it on Thursday in individual races (and the 4x4 for Battershell). The Wheatland, Wyo., native Battershell leads all active Bulldogs with 11 career All-America awards.
In the heptathlon, Amy Richert has positioned herself for a shot at adding to her three career All-America plaques. The Gresham, Neb., native resides in 11th place (2,684 points) with four of seven events scored. Meanwhile, Josi Noble stands in 16th place (2,528 points) on the strength of her time of 25.83 in the 200 meters (second among heptathletes). The heptathlon will wrap up on Thursday with the long jump, javelin and 800 meters.
The sister of 2021 NAIA javelin national champion Liz Stottlemyre, Gretchen Stottlemyre made her first NAIA nationals appearance on Wednesday. The Olympia, Wash., native missed the finals of the event after throwing 118’ 10” as part of flight two. Stottlemyre got her qualifying mark in the final weekend of regular season competition.
The Concordia schedule for Thursday can be found below. The heptathlon will resume at 10 a.m. ET from Marion. The afternoon will heat up with Rodencal set to take the track for the 100-meter hurdles at 2 p.m. The day will be capped off by the women’s 4x400 meter relay.
2023 NAIA Outdoor All-Americans
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (2nd)
Concordia remaining events:
Listed times are EDT
Heptathlon (Thursday, 10:00 a.m.) – Josi Noble, Amy Richert
Women’s 100m Hurdles (Thursday, 2:00 p.m.) – Adrianna Rodencal
Women’s Shot Put (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.) – Kamryn Pokorney
Women’s 800m (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.) – Jenna Esch
Men’s Long Jump (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.) – Joel Rathe
Women’s 400m (Thursday, 4:00 p.m.) – Rachel Battershell
Men’s High Jump (Thursday, 4:30 p.m.) – Wyatt Loga
Women’s 5,000m Race Walk (Thursday, 4:45 p.m.) – Lauren Dawson
Men’s Discus (Thursday, 6:30 p.m.) – Austen Rozelle
Men’s 5,000m (Thursday, 7:35 p.m.) – Calvin Rohde
Women’s 4x400m Relay (Thursday, 8:15 p.m.) – Jenna Esch, Josi Noble, Trinity Tuls, Rachel Battershell; Alternate: Jordan Koepke
Women’s Discus Throw (Friday, 1:00 p.m.) – Emma Lloyd, Erin Painter
Men’s Pole Vault (Friday, 1:00 p.m.) – Zach Zohner
Women’s High Jump (Friday, 2:00 p.m.) – Hannah Newton
Men’s Shot Put (Friday, 3:00 p.m.) – Darien Semedo
Friday race final times:
2:00 p.m. – Women’s 1,500 Meters
2:20 p.m. – Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:30 p.m. – Women’s 400 Meters
3:50 p.m. – Women’s 800 Meters
4:55 p.m. – Men’s 5,000 Meters
5:15 p.m. – Women’s 4x400m Relay