MARION, Ind. – In highlighting day two of the 2023 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, the Concordia women’s 4x400 meter relay blazed to a first-place time in its heat of the prelims and Austen Rozelle crashed the All-America party in the discus. In sum, 12 Bulldogs represented Concordia University Track & Field as part of the day’s action at the Wildcat Track & Field Complex in Marion, Ind. Fifth-year senior Rachel Battershell will enter the final day of her collegiate track career ready to take on the finals of both the 4x4 and the open 400 meters.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads are on the board on both sides at the national meet. The women’s team earned eight points thanks to Josie Puelz’s pole vault runner-up claim on Wednesday. Rozelle’s sixth-place finish in the discus has supplied three points on the men’s side.
A junior from Wauneta, Neb., Rozelle waited until the Concordia Twilight to add his name to the qualifying field in the discus. He rose to the occasion at just the right time and then came through at the national meet on his very first attempt. A three-foot personal best of 165’ 7” led the field at the end of two flights. That mark stood up as an All-America performance for Rozelle, who even beat out the event’s No. 2 seed heading into the week.
Said Rozelle, “It’s been a lot of up and down. We’ve had a lot of practice where we’ve been going hard every day with a lot of guys pushing us. We have a really strong discus squad. We’ve been really technical about everything, just trying to find the kinks that we can work out. Coach has been pushing really hard. It was good to finally get one to connect … I’ve been really blessed. Coach Ed (McLaughlin) gave me the opportunity and I’ve been taking off with it. I’m really thankful for it.”
There are always high expectations for a women’s 4x4 led by Battershell. Like she did at the GPAC Championships, Battershell chased down the opposition in the final stretch as the Bulldogs won the first of four heats on a chilly and breezy Thursday evening. Battershell was preceded by Jenna Esch, Josi Noble and Trinity Tuls. The conference championship group finished sixth overall in the prelims in a time of 3:49.92. Concordia’s 4x4 placed sixth nationally at the 2023 NAIA indoor meet. As for Battershell, she was given an initial unofficial time of 56.26 in the open 400 meters. Battershell was ultimately granted a spot in the finals due to her being impeded by another runner. The Wheatland, Wyo., native will be attempting to add to her 11 career All-America awards when the action resumes on Friday.
In a heptathlon field of 18 athletes, Josi Noble and Amy Richert made a push for spots on the podium. A freshman from Stromsburg, Neb., Noble finished strong while posting a personal best in the javelin (116’ 8”) and then placing sixth in the 800 meters (2:27.71). Those efforts vaulted her to No. 10 in the final heptathlon standings with 4,370 points. She wound up leaping Richert (4,368) on the leaderboard. A three-time All-American, Richert was the GPAC champion in the heptathlon as part of a strong 2023 outdoor season.
As a freshman, Noble has made a major impact. As she explained afterwards, “It’s definitely been a wild ride. College is a lot different from high school. It’s a lot harder work, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge … it’s a competition-mindset. I don’t like losing and I’m going to try my hardest to prevent it from happening. I’m coming back next year and I’m excited for it.”
Credit goes to Lauren Dawson for helping revive the race walk at Concordia. Under the tutelage of former Bulldog All-American race walker Steve Hoger, Dawson qualified for nationals and crossed the finish line in 10th place on Thursday with a 5,000-meter race walk time of 28:34.97. She was only about 26 seconds away from being an All-American and narrowly missed her own school record (28:33.68).
A couple other Concordia women’s athletes took to the track on Thursday. The school 100-meter hurdle record holder Adrianna Rodencal clocked in at 14.18 in the prelims and placed 13th (.17 seconds short of reaching the finals). Rodencal concluded a freshman year that included a sweep of 2023 GPAC indoor/outdoor Female Athlete of the Year awards. Later in the afternoon, Jenna Esch crossed the finish line in 2:17.32 while placing 18th in the prelims of the 800 meters. Esch will be back on the track on Friday as part of the 4x4.
Kamryn Pokorney also represented the throws crew in Thursday’s action. The Shelby, Neb., native Pokorney notched a personal best in the shot put with her mark of 43’ 11.” That figure was second best in Pokorney’s flight and put her No. 15 on the overall national leaderboard. Pokorney also competed in the hammer throw on Wednesday.
In the men’s 5,000 meters, Calvin Rohde hoped to give the school record a run. He finished in 23rd place in the prelims as he clocked in at 15:10.39 (roughly 30 seconds off the school standard). He was one of three GPAC competitors in the race.
As for the jumps crew, Joel Rathe and Wyatt Loga both took on the spotlight. In the long jump, Rathe rivaled his personal best with a jump of 23’ 5” and placed 16th out of 26 national qualifiers. Rathe was the GPAC runner up in the event. A two-time All-American in the high jump, Loga was unable to clear the opening height of 6’ 6 ¾.”
Ten Bulldogs are scheduled to compete on the third and final day of the championship meet. The first action is slated for 1 p.m. ET when the women’s discus and men’s pole vault will take place. The closing event for Concordia will be the women’s 4x4 at 5:15 p.m. ET. The complete schedule can be found below.
2023 NAIA Outdoor All-Americans
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (2nd)
· Austen Rozelle – Discus (6th)
Concordia remaining events on Friday:
Listed times are EDT
Women’s Discus Throw (1:00 p.m.) – Emma Lloyd, Erin Painter
Men’s Pole Vault (1:00 p.m.) – Zach Zohner
Women’s 1,500 Meter Finals (2:00 p.m.) – Rylee Haecker
Women’s High Jump (2:00 p.m.) – Hannah Newton
Men’s Shot Put (3:00 p.m.) – Darien Semedo
Women’s 400 Meter Finals (3:30 p.m.) – Rachel Battershell
Women’s 4x400m Relay Finals (5:15 p.m.) – Jenna Esch, Josi Noble, Trinity Tuls, Rachel Battershell