SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – The reign atop the GPAC continues for the Bulldog pole vault crew. Both Josie Puelz and Zach Zohner claimed conference championships while representing Concordia University Track & Field on Day one of the 2023 GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships hosted by Dordt. Six events were scored on both the men’s and women’s sides of the action that took place in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Friday (May 5). Lightning delays altered the schedule, but eventually the weather cooperated.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads will enter the second and final day of the championship meet out in front of the pack. The eight-time defending GPAC champion Bulldog women have accumulated 59.5 points (with Doane in second at 43) and the men have totaled 53 points (with Doane in second at 52). Concordia has already produced 23 all-conference event placements (top eight individuals; top three relays).
Considering the career accolades of Puelz, it would have been a major upset for anyone else to have seized the crown in the women’s pole vault. The five-time NAIA national champion cleared 12’ 9 ½” on Friday in the process of taking home her sixth career GPAC pole vault title. Four teammates joined her in all-conference territory in the event: Erin Mapson (second), Erin Boggs (fifth), Amira Cummings (seventh) and Sydney Reichert (eighth). The group combined to rack up 24.5 team points.
Zohner and the men’s pole vault group nearly matched that total as they posted 23 points. The Battle Creek, Neb., native Zohner turned heads this past March with an NAIA indoor national runner-up claim. He’s never looked back. Zohner won the first GPAC pole vault championship of his career while clearing 15’ 11” in Friday’s competition. Three teammates joined him with top-eight finishes: Mayson Ostermeyer (third), Zach Bennetts (fourth) and Spencer Kearn (seventh). Bennetts owns three career GPAC pole vault titles to his credit.
Friday action also featured the hammer throw, javelin and long jump. The men’s hammer proved fruitful for the Bulldogs, who notched 15 points in the event. After fighting off some pain this spring, three-time All-American Chris Wren rose to the occasion with a personal best hammer throw of 196’ 11 ¾” and placed as the conference runner up. He was followed by Darien Semedo (fourth – just shy of a PR) and Ben Moll (seventh). Meanwhile, the women’s hammer added 13 points to the team total thanks to the efforts of Kamryn Pokorney (third), Alli Owings (fifth) and Abi Wohlgemuth (sixth). The performance was especially noteworthy for Pokorney, who whirled a personal best of 175’ 6” and qualified for nationals in the hammer. As for the javelin, Gretchen Stottlemyre (third) and Wohlgemuth (sixth) placed on the women’s side and Matthew Boyer (sixth) placed on the men’s side.
In the long jump, Concordia emerged with the conference runner up for both men and women. Joel Rathe placed second with a mark of 23’ 4” and Hayley Miles took second with a mark of 17’ 6 ¼.” Wyatt Loga and Kellie Rohdes were both sixth-place finishers.
By the time the dust settles, the women’s heptathletes will likely produce a bushel of points for the Bulldogs. At the end of day one (with four events scored), Concordia holds down six of the top eight spots in the heptathlon. The 2023 GPAC indoor pentathlon champion, Amy Richert paces the field in the heptathlon with 2,587 points. Next in line among teammates are Josi Noble (third), Isabelle Salters (fourth), Elena Batenhorst (sixth), Amanda Steinke (seventh) and Faith Espinosa (eighth). The day two heptathlon events will be the long jump, javelin and 800 meters.
The vast majority of running events will be scored on Saturday, but Concordia did pick up a few early points on the track. The team’s women’s 4x800 meter relay placed seventh. That group was made up of Faith Williamson, Jaiden Tweton, Caitlyn Adams and Rachel Ada. One point came in the men’s 10,000 meters thanks to Jack Ellis’ eighth-place finish. In addition, prelims took place in the 100 meters and in the 100/110-meter hurdles. GPAC Indoor Athlete of the Year Adrianna Rodencal ran 14.72 in the 100 hurdle prelims and qualified for the finals. She also ran 12.35 in the 100 meters (fourth in the prelims). For the men, Mark Cooke placed fourth in the prelims of both the 100 meters and 110 hurdles.
The conference meet will resume with the multi events at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday. The first running events of the day are slated for 11 a.m. with field events to follow at 12 p.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled to take place at roughly 6 p.m. For more details on the GPAC Championships, visit the GPAC website HERE.
2023 GPAC Outdoor Champions
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 9 ½”)
· Zach Zohner – Pole Vault (15’ 11”)