Photo Description: The 4×400 relay team of (from left to right) Trinity Tuls, Rachel Battershell, Josi Noble, and Jenna Esch take a group photo after their successful semifinal win.
Photo Credit: Jake Knabel
The Concordia track and field team sent 31 athletes to Marion, Ind. for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The event was held from May 24-26.
The team finished the championship with seven All-America awards and two podium placements with juniors Josie Puelz and Zach Zohner winning second and third in the women’s and men’s pole vaults respectively.
Starting off with Wednesday’s events, Puelz and three other pole vaulters competed in their event. As stated earlier, Puelz won second with a jump of 3.90 meters. This is Puelz’s seventh All-America award, but her national champ streak was broken in the process. Freshman Kayla Svoboda placed 14th in the event with a jump of 3.45 meters. Sophomore Erin Boggs and senior Erin Mapson were unable to place in the event.
Though her championship streak was broken, Puelz was grateful for her success saying, “I feel extremely blessed to have 7 All American awards. Each of those was made possible by my amazing teammates, coaches, and family who continually pour into me and encourage me each step of the way.”
Junior Darien Semedo placed 14th in the men’s hammer throw with a final throw of 53.50 meters. Fellow junior Kamryn Pokorney placed 19th in the women’s hammer throw with a final throw of 49.39. Pokorney was seeded at number eight coming into the national meet. Another junior, Alli Owings, placed 27th in the same event with a throw of 46.44 meters. Sophomore Abi Wohlgemuth finished the best in the women’s hammer throw, placing 15th with a throw of 50.95 meters. The last thrower of the day, sophomore Gretchen Stottlemyre, placed 26th in the women’s javelin with a throw of 36.23 meters.
Two of the three Concordia women’s relay teams competed Wednesday as well. The 4×100 meter relay team made up of senior Rachel Battershell, freshman Kayla Kirschner, junior Kellie Rhodes and freshman Adrianna Rodencal placed 17th in their race with a time of 47.65. The 4×800 meter relay team made up of freshman Keegan Beisel, senior Kylahn Freiberg, sophomore Rhaya Kaschinske and junior Rylee Haecker placed 12th with a time of 9:23.18.
The women’s heptathlon finished up its events Thursday with two Concordia athletes in the mix. Freshman Josi Noble finished 10th with a score of 4,370 and also achieved a PR in the javelin with a 35.55 meter throw. Junior Ami Richert placed 11th just behind Noble with a score of 4,368.
Rodencal competed in the 100-meter hurdles event as well and placed 13th with a time of 14.18 seconds. Rodencal missed the cutoff for the finals with her semifinal time being 0.17 seconds behind the final qualifier. Sophomore Jenna Esch placed 18th in the women’s 800-meter run with a time of 2:17.32. Junior Lauren Dawson placed 10th in the women’s 5,000-meter race walk with a time of 28:34.97, just over a second slower than her school record. Fellow junior Calvin Rohde placed 23rd in the men’s 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:10.39.
Rodencal’s incredible first season with Concordia included five school records in two separate events and two trips to nationals. Rodencal commented on her success saying, “I’m super happy with this first year. I have loved getting to know everyone on the team and become close to them and I can’t wait to deepen those friendships next year. The team atmosphere is amazing. Everyone, coaches included, is caring and always looking to help you. I know I wouldn’t be anywhere without the people on this team, and of course without God’s guidance.”
Junior Joel Rathe placed 16th in the men’s long jump with a jump of 7.13 meters. His jump was slightly behind his PR. Pokorney competed again this time in the women’s shot put and placed 15th with a PR throw of 13.38 meters. Junior Wyatt Loga competed in the men’s high jump, but was unable to place.
Junior Austen Rozelle surprised the competition in the men’s discus by sneaking into sixth place earning him an All-America award. In his first national appearance, Rozelle threw a PR of 50.47 meters. His throw remained at the top of the leaderboard through two flights before it was bumped down.
Zohner had to wait till Friday for his chance to compete in the pole vault. He finished third with a jump of 4.85 meters and another All-America award. Sophomore Hannah Newton tied for ninth with Indiana Wesleyan’s Abi Hume with a jump of 1.65 meters. In the women’s discus, juniors Erin Painter and Emma Lloyd placed 23rd and 24th respectively. Painter had a throw of 40.92 meters and Lloyd was right behind her teammate with a throw of 40.88 meters.
Semedo had another chance to compete in nationals this time in the men’s shot put. Not only was his throw of 16.46 meters a PR, he, like Rozelle, snuck his way into sixth place for an All-America award.
Haecker also competed in the women’s 1,500 meter run. She finished eighth in the Wednesday semifinals with a time of 4:39.87. On Friday she placed sixth in the finals with a new school record of 4:33.84 and an eighth All-America award. Haecker’s record beats the previous one set by Molly Engel in 2005 by 0.14 seconds.
Battershell was another repeat runner for the Bulldogs. She competed in the women’s 400-meter dash and placed 22nd in the Thursday semifinals with a time of 58.37. However, it was determined that she was impeded by another runner and was allowed to advance to the Friday finals. She placed eighth in the finals with a time of 57.41 after another runner was disqualified.
Battershell competed in a third event at this national championship this time in the 4×400 relay. Esch, Noble, sophomore Trinity Tuls and Battershell as the anchor leg placed first in their semifinal heat Thursday with a time of 3:49.92, which automatically qualified them for the finals the next day. The relay team placed eighth in the finals with a time of 3:50.06, meaning Battershell finished her college career with 13 All-America awards.
With such an unconventional outcome at this meet, Battershell commented on how she did saying, “Overall, I’m so grateful for how this meet turned out. I wanted to end the season strong, while also focusing on just having fun and running free in my last races ever! It was quite a rollercoaster, but I can look back and say I did my best with what I had, and left the rest to God. I’m blessed to come home with some hardware to end my track career!”
Coach Matt Beisel praised the team’s accomplishments during nationals. With nine All-American athletes over seven events, the team did a fantastic job on the national stage. Beisel commented, “After an incredibly successful regular season, we were blessed to take 31 athletes to the National Championships. I am so very proud of every athlete, and we had many outstanding performances… We had many all-time bests. I’m very thankful.”
The women as a team placed 23rd with 13 points for the championship and the men placed 26th with 12 points. The Concordia track and field 2022-23 season has ended with two more Great Plains Athletic Conference titles for the women, a coach of the year award for coach Beisel, and 60 NAIA scholar athletes, the most in the nation.
Lauren Dawson contributed to this report. Updated 5/27/23 at 6:41am