Women's program celebrates eighth-straight GPAC title; men place third

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 18, 2023 in Track & Field

MEET REACTION: Concordia Athletics YouTube Channel

Day 1 Recap

SEWARD, Neb. – The dominance of the women’s program for Concordia University Track & Field seemingly reached a new level on Saturday (Feb. 18). The Bulldogs piled up 241.5 team points while winning nine conference event championships in the process of running away with another GPAC team title. The streak has reached eight GPAC championships in a row for the Concordia women. Meanwhile, the men placed third with 100.5 points. Bulldog freshman Adrianna Rodencal earned GPAC Athlete of the Meet honors on the women’s side. The GPAC meet unfolded inside the Walz Fieldhouse on the Concordia campus.

Head Coach Matt Beisel has helped lead Concordia to each of those GPAC titles during a run that started when Concordia hosted the 2019 GPAC indoor meet. Both Bulldog teams entered the meet ranked in the top 12 nationally, according to the USTFCCCA formula.

“The women did all that we could have asked them for,” Beisel said. “We knew we had a good chance of winning, but it still had to be done. They came up and showed up and ran their hearts out, threw their hearts out and jumped their hearts out. They had an amazing competition from all the other teams to push them. We just take it as it comes. Maybe the guys and the girls felt that momentum. Our guys got third and we’re super happy with that. Top three in the GPAC – no complaining.”

In Friday’s pentathlon, GPAC champion Amy Richert and her fellow teammates set the tone by racking up 27 team points. It snowballed from there and it became clear early on Saturday that every other women’s team would be competing for second place. Additional conference championships were won by Rachel Battershell (400 meters), Lauren Dawson (3,000 meter race walk), Rylee Haecker (mile and 1,000 meters), Josie Puelz (pole vault) and Rodencal (60 hurdles and 200 meters). To cap it off, Battershell and the 4x400 meter relay group that included Jenna Esch, Jordan Koepke and Trinity Tuls held off Dordt for first place.

It would be hard to script a more special freshman indoor season than the one enjoyed by Rodencal, a Lincoln Lutheran High School alum. She again broke her own school record in the 60 hurdles by running 8.72 in the finals of the event. Not only did she also win the 200 meters (25.76), she placed second in the 60 meter dash (7.81). Her 28 team points led all women’s athletes. Said Rodencal afterward, “It lived up (to expectations). I’ve been warned by other people that it’s big and it’s loud. I definitely felt that and saw that. To be part of that was amazing – loved it.”

The Davenport, Neb., native Haecker pulled off an impressive feat of doubling as GPAC indoor champion in the mile and the 1,000 meters for the second year in a row. She ran 5:10.67 in the mile and later finished the 1,000 in 3:01.15. In both races, teammate Kylahn Freiberg (second in the 1,000 and third in the mile) placed just behind her. Said Haecker, “It’s pretty crazy. I wasn’t really expecting that. There’s some good competition in the mile and 1k in the GPAC. It’s really special to be able to do that in back-to-back years, but definitely God gets all the glory.”

She’s too humble to think about it in such terms, but Battershell will go down as a legend in Concordia Track history. She’s claimed 10 career GPAC event titles (to go along with 10 All-America awards) and she’s been a key figure in each of those eight GPAC team championships. After the meet, Battershell had to wipe away tears when reflecting on the journey. Said the Wheatland, Wyo., native, “Look how far we’ve come. I’m really just thankful. It’s always fun to run against Dordt (in the 4x4). I have such high respect for those girls. That’s what it’s about – it’s racing, and I love that. To end my career like that is so special. I’m obviously getting a little emotional.”

The men improved their point total vastly from the 67 they scored at the 2022 GPAC indoor meet. One of the more fruitful events was the pole vault, which was won by Zach Bennetts in a personal best of 16’ 2 ¾.” Bennetts brushed the bar as he went over it, but it held steady, prompting a roar from the crowd. He was immediately rushed and tackled by Puelz in one of the meet’s most thrilling moments. All-conference placements also came from Zach Zohner (second), Chase Berry (fourth), Evan Hill (fifth) and Mayson Ostermeyer (seventh). The top three all repeated automatic national qualifying performances.

Said Bennetts, “I hit the bar a little bit so, I was like, ‘Awe, man.’ Then it stayed on. The bar was giving a lot of love today. It was amazing to look up and see all of my teammates rushing at me for that PR. It was an incredible team moment.”

Puelz took home the fifth GPAC pole vault title of her career while clearing 12’ 10 ¼.” The four-time NAIA national champion knew her best competition would come from within the team. Erin Mapson, Amira Cummings and Erin Boggs all hit the ‘A’ standard again while placing second through fourth, respectively. Kayla Svoboda also placed sixth.

There were two new automatic national qualifying standards that came out of the meet for the Bulldogs. Abby Gerber popped off a toss of 44’ 6 ¾” in the shot put and placed third while qualifying for nationals. In addition, Joel Rathe broke loose with a personal best long jump of 23’ 6 ¼” (second place) that punched his ticket to Brookings, S.D. Concordia’s season tally for auto marks has moved to 27.

The list of Bulldogs who placed second in their events also includes Jenna Esch (800 meters), Josi Noble (triple jump), Amy Richert (long jump), Aaron Spivey (triple jump) and the men’s 4x400 and 4x800 meter relays. The relay teams were made up of Mark Cooke, Colby Sugden, Liam Fagan and Colton Meyer in the 4x4 and Micah Willweber, Hudson Opp, Jimmy Nguyen and Ethan Ideus in the 4x8. Richert was another big point scorer as she put 24 points on the board (placed second in the long jump and third in the high jump). On the men’s side of the high jump, Wyatt Loga and Jayson Frank both cleared 6’ 5” and placed fifth and sixth, respectively.

Depth in the weight throw has been a consistent strength all season for Concordia. Chris Wren again hit the ‘A’ standard (61’ 1 ¼”) on the men’s side and placed third, while teammates Josiah Edwards (seventh) and Austen Rozelle (eighth) also put up team points. On the women’s side, Maddie Robinson was a repeat ‘A’ mark performer with a fourth-place throw of 55’ 11,” putting her above teammates Kamryn Pokorney (seventh) and Abi Wohlgemuth (eighth). Robinson scored in the shot and the weight. The top men’s shot put athlete was Darien Semedo, who placed fourth.

Some other notable efforts on the track included the work of Esch (third in the 600 meters with an auto time), Calvin Rohde (fourth in the mile with an auto time) and Meyer (third in the 400 meters with an auto time). In the women’s 400 meters, Battershell led a group of five all-conference finishers. She was followed by Trinity Tuls (fourth), Emily Loseke (fifth), Noble (seventh) and Kayla Kirchner (eighth). Dawson’s time in the race walk came in at 17:57.79. It was the first time the GPAC had ever run the event at the conference meet. It did not factor into team scoring.

2023 GPAC Indoor Champions

·        Women’s 4x400m Relay (3:56.59)

·        Rachel Battershell – 400 Meters (58.29)

·        Zach Bennetts – Pole Vault (16’ 2 ¾”)

·        Lauren Dawson – 3,000m Race Walk (17:57.79)

·        Rylee Haecker – Mile (5:10.67); 1,000 Meters (3:01.15)

·        Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 10 ¼”)

·        Amy Richert – Pentathlon (3,446)

·        Adrianna Rodencal – 60 Hurdles (8.72); 200 Meters (25.76)

NOTE: All individuals who placed in the top eight of each event (and top three relays) earn all-conference recognition. A complete list of Concordia All-GPAC performers will be released next week on the web.

For those who qualify, the indoor season will continue with the 2023 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships set for March 2-4 in Brookings, S.D. Official qualifiers will be announced next week by the NAIA. More information on the national championship meet can be found HERE.