SEWARD, Neb. – In the first home meet of the 2022 outdoor season, Concordia University Track & Field hosted athletes from 11 colleges and universities on a mild and breezy spring Saturday (April 9) at the Concordia Invite. Most notably, the Bulldog women’s 4x800 and 4x400 meter relays blazed and Chris Wren came through with a significant personal best toss in the hammer throw. While up against strong competition, Concordia athletes combined for six event championships and six performances that met the automatic national qualifying standard.
This was the third weekend of outdoor competition for Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads. The Bulldog women entered the meet ranked third nationally (according to the USTFCCCA NAIA ratings index).
“There were a ton of positives,” Beisel said. “We had some warm weather with a little more wind than we would have wanted for anything more than half a lap. It was still pretty good. We were able to get some great performances. We had some ‘A’ marks in the throws that were able to move them forward on the national lists. It was nice to see Chris Wren throw a personal best in the hammer. I was super excited by the women’s 4x8 coming out and setting a stadium record. Our women’s 4x4 wanted to run better, but they got the mark and we can keep building on that.”
The women’s 4x8 helped get the day off to a thrilling start. The quartet of Rylee Haecker, Jenna Esch, Kylahn Heritage (fastest 800 ever) and Keri Bauer didn’t just qualify for nationals, it also broke the Concordia Invite meet and Bulldog Stadium records. The group strode to a time of 9:18.80, breaking the previous stadium standard of 9:20.96 by Morningside in 2013. As of late Saturday night, the Bulldogs owned the nation’s top 4x8 time by nearly four full seconds.
To bookend another fine weekend for the Concordia women, the 4x4 locked up its spot at nationals. The Bulldogs were represented in the event by Sarah Lewis, Jordan Koepke, Jacee Pfeifer and Rachel Battershell. Collectively, they finished in 3:53.07 (fourth fastest in the NAIA in 2022). It wasn’t much of a surprise considering that same group made up the 4x4 that placed fifth nationally this past indoor season.
Fresh off a weight throw All-America award during indoor, Wren reached new ground on Saturday by landing the hammer at 194’ 5,” for a personal best that puts him No. 7 on the program’s all-time list. Wren placed second in the event at the Concordia Invite while pacing the throws group. On the women’s side of the hammer, Ragland was the meet runner up with her season best of 175’ 5.” More ‘A’ standards are likely on the way as the season progresses. The throws crew notched five new ‘B’ marks this weekend courtesy of Andy Amos (hammer), Olivia Buschow (discus), Abby Gerber (hammer) and Alli Owings (shot put and hammer).
The women’s pole vault field was made up of mostly Bulldogs. The competition was won by three-time national champion Josie Puelz, who cleared 12’ 3 ½.” Puelz and Mapson (runner up) again vaulted above the national qualifying standard. Puelz was just named GPAC Field Athlete of the Week this past Wednesday. On the men’s side of the pole vault, Chase Berry placed second while clearing 15’ 1” and Zach Bennetts vaulted 14’ 7 ¼.”
Contributors to the auto time in the 4x4, Lewis (100 hurdles) and Koepke (400 hurdles) clocked ‘B’ standards in their respective hurdle races. Koepke emerged as the Concordia Invite winner in the 400 hurdles while Lewis placed second in the 100 hurdles. Elsewhere on the track, first-place finishes were earned by Heritage (5,000 meters), Camden Sesna (1,500 meters) and Trinity Tuls (400 meters). Heritage’s time of 18:29.11 was a personal best (cross country or track 5K). The men’s 4x100 meter relay is aiming to hunt down a national qualifying mark. The group of Cade Kleckner, Joel Rathe, Jacob Jennings and Mark Cooke hit a ‘B’ standard of 41.61.
There were many other strong efforts on the track. Kleckner posted times of 10.75 in the 100 meters and 21.60 in the 200 meters. Xavier Ross clocked in at 49.81 in the 400 meters. In longer distances, Haecker was the Concordia Invite runner up in the 1,500 meters (4:49.35) and Nathan Pennekamp placed second in the 3,000 meter steeplechase (10:26.47). In the women’s steeplechase, Kaia Richmond placed fourth in a time of 12:29.37. Beisel is a big believer in Richmond’s potential - and that of her teammates - to continue to grow in the event. Also in the women’s 1,500, Bauer (4:59.29) and Rhaya Kaschinske (5:07.38) put together fine races.
The jumpers will have to wait at least another week before reaching national qualifying status. Standouts such as Hannah Newton and Wyatt Loga in the high jump weren’t far from the ‘B’ standard on Saturday. Newton placed fourth on the women’s side while Loga and teammate Jacob Glines both placed fifth on the men’s side. Rathe and Cora Olson (third in the triple jump) were fourth-place finishers in the long jump.
Said Beisel in sum, “It was a lot of good. Overall, I’m extremely happy with it. Some of our kids have bigger things they want to accomplish. We have another opportunity next week at Kearney. I love to see how our teams are progressing.”
Prior to the Easter holiday, the Bulldogs will be in action at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Invite next Friday (April 15). The meet is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. CT from Kearney, Neb. Concordia will wait until the Twilight Meet on May 13 before hosting again.
‘A’ standards achieved at Concordia Invite
· Women’s 4x400m Relay (3:53.07); Lewis, Koepke, Pfeifer, Battershell
· Women’s 4x800m Relay (9:18.80); Haecker, Esch, Heritage, Bauer
· Erin Mapson – Pole Vault (11’ 11 ¾”)
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 3 ½”)
· Sarah Ragland – Hammer Throw (175’ 5”)
· Chris Wren – Hammer Throw (194’ 5”)
New ‘B’ standards: Men’s 4x100m Relay (41.61); Andy Amos (Hammer Throw; 182’ 6”); Olivia Buschow (Discus; 139’ 6”); Abby Gerber (Hammer Throw; 159’ 11”); Sarah Lewis (100 Hurdles; 14.59); Alli Owings (Shot Put; 43’ 1 ¾”; Hammer Throw; 163’ 10”).
Concordia Invite Event Champions
· Women’s 4x800m Relay (9:18.80); Haecker, Heritage, Esch, Bauer
· Kylahn Heritage – 5,000 Meters (18:29.11)
· Jordan Koepke – 400 Hurdles (1:04.12)
· Josie Puelz – Pole Vault (12’ 3 ½”)
· Camden Sesna – 1,500 Meters (4:04.85)
· Trinity Tuls – 400 Meters (59.89)