SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Fifth-year competitor Rachel Battershell knows nothing but winning GPAC championships. The two-time national champion and her teammates from Concordia University Track & Field celebrated the women’s program’s ninth GPAC meet championship in a row while running away with the title at the 2023 GPAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships (May 5-6) hosted by Dordt. Meanwhile, the Bulldog men’s team placed third in the conference. The haul for the Bulldogs included eight total GPAC event championships and freshman Adrianna Rodencal earned the distinction of the GPAC Female Athlete of the Meet.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads accumulated point totals of 244.5 on the women’s side and 112 on the men’s side. The GPAC event champions included the team’s women’s 4x100 meter relay, women’s 4x400 meter relay, Battershell (400 meters), Rylee Haecker (1,500 meters), Hannah Newton (high jump), Josie Puelz (pole vault), Amy Richert (heptathlon) and Zach Zohner (pole vault).
“Every single conference championship has its own flavor,” Beisel said. “One of the things I love the most about this one is that it’s not all on one person. It’s about the team, enjoying your time with great teammates and competing hard against great competition on a beautiful day. We saw our athletes go out there and relax and do what God gave them the ability to do. We had a staggering number of outstanding performances in all event areas. The attitudes were great. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of fun had on both sides. Give all glory to God. We’ve been blessed with a lot of success and more importantly, phenomenal relationships and experiences. We’re so thankful to Him.”
Fittingly, Battershell capped the final conference meet of her collegiate career by anchoring the conference champion 4x4 to a first-place time of 3:49.24. The Wheatland, Wyo., native caught Dordt in the final stretch. Battershell followed Jenna Esch, Kayla Kirchner and Trinity Tuls in the 4x4 lineup. Battershell and Rodencal also combined with Kellie Rhodes and Rodencal on a school record time of 47.40 (‘A’ standard) in the winning performance from the 4x1. The previous standard had been 47.66 set at the 2021 national meet. In addition, Battershell won the 400 meters in a fresh automatic national qualifying time of 56.10. That race featured four ‘A’ standard times, including the 56.70 from Esch. Battershell’s now a 13-time GPAC champion in her career. As Beisel put it, Battershell ended her conference career “in style.”
Outside of relays, the Lincoln Lutheran alum Rodencal placed as the runner up in the 100-meter hurdles (14.00), and the 100 meters (12.22) and finished third in the 200 meters (25.28). Her time in the hurdles broke her own school record. Rodencal’s impressive freshman year now includes a sweep of 2023 GPAC Indoor/Outdoor Women’s Athlete of the Meet awards.
In the mid-distance races, Haecker keeps piling up GPAC titles (six career). She defended her 2022 conference championship in the 1,500 meters by clocking in at 4:40.11. As they did in so many of the 23 events, the Concordia women stacked points while posting finishes of 1-4-5-6-7 in the 1,500 meters. The Bulldogs loaded up even more significantly in the heptathlon as Richert, Noble and Elena Batenhorst placed 1-2-3 in the event. Richert made it a sweep of 2023 GPAC multi-event championships as she also took the indoor pentathlon title back in February. As for Newton, she was a first time GPAC champion as she reached the mountaintop with a high jump of 5’ 5.”
The wins in the pole vault came as part of Friday’s action in Sioux Center, Iowa. Puelz claimed her sixth career GPAC pole vault title and Zohner rose to the top of the podium for the first time. The pole vault crew combined for 24.5 team points on the women’s side and 23 points on the men’s side. Also as part of Friday’s slate, the Bulldogs got big things out of the hammer throw. Chris Wren placed as the GPAC runner up with a personal best (196’ 11 ¾”) and Kamryn Pokorney qualified for nationals with a PR (175’ 6”) of her own. She placed third in hammer.
The Concordia event runners up (not previously mentioned) this weekend included Mark Cooke (100 meters), Lauren Dawson (5,000-meter race walk), Erin Mapson (pole vault), Hayley Miles (long jump), Joel Rathe (long jump) and Austen Rozelle (discus – new ‘B’ standard). Third place (among those not previously mentioned) was claimed by Cooke (110 hurdles), Kylahn Freiberg (5,000 meters), Emma Lloyd (discus), Noble (triple jump), Mayson Ostermeyer (pole vault), Kaia Richmond (3,000-meter steeplechase), Darien Semedo (shot put), Camden Sesna (1,500 meters) and Gretchen Stottlemyre (javelin). It was a busy weekend for Cooke, who also ran the leadoff leg for the men’s 4x4.
As for Freiberg, she also placed fourth in the 1,500 meters. Coach Beisel’s daughter Keegan placed in the top five of the 1,500 and 5,000 meters. On the men’s side of the 1,500 meters, Calvin Rohde followed Sesna by placing fourth. Rohde also placed fourth in the 5,000 meters.
Afterwards, Beisel reflected on the senior class. Many seniors have now ended their collegiate track careers. Said Beisel, “We had 20 of them this year that are finished competing. They’re great team members who have given us so much. It’s a time to celebrate their performances.”
The active string of GPAC championships for the women’s program began with the 2019 GPAC indoor meet that took place in Seward. It took a hiatus in the spring of 2020 (due to COVID-19) before continuing into the present. The Bulldogs won the 2023 conference indoor title while also hosting that meet. As for the men, they placed third in the GPAC in ’23 for both indoor and outdoor.
A couple of ‘last chance’ meets remain on the outdoor schedule. As part of next week’s action, the Bulldogs will host the Concordia Twilight on May 12. Select members of the team will also compete at the UNK Loper Twilight Meet on May 13. The tentative schedule for the Concordia Twilight can be found HERE.
The top eight individuals and top three relays in each of the events earn all-conference accolades. The complete list of 2023 All-GPAC outdoor award winners for Concordia will be published next week on the website.
2023 GPAC Outdoor Champions
· Women’s 4x100m Relay (47.40); Battershell, Kirchner, Rhodes, Rodencal
· Women’s 4x400m Relay (3:49.24); Esch, Kirchner, Tuls, Battershell
· Rachel Battershell – 400 Meters (56.10)
· Rylee Haecker – 1,500 Meters (4:40.11)
· Hannah Newton – High Jump (5’ 5”)
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 9 ½”)
· Amy Richert – Heptathlon (4,077)
· Zach Zohner – Pole Vault (15’ 11”)