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Photo Description: The women’s track and field team accept their third place trophy after Saturday’s events

Photo Credit: Maddy Peters

Maddy Peters, Sports Editor

The Concordia Track and Field team sent 32 athletes to Brookings, S.D. to compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Indoor Track and Field Championships hosted by Dakota State University from Feb. 29-March 2.

The women won third place in the team competition with 42 points, tying with Cumberland University (Tenn.). The men placed eighth with a score of 24.5. 15 Bulldogs received All Americans and there were five podium placements for the meet.

Events for Concordia began Thursday morning with the women’s pentathlon. Two Bulldogs, sophomore Josi Noble and freshman Zoey Walker, competed in the event. Noble placed 12th with a total score of 3,167 and Walker placed 15th with 3,125 points. Later that evening, the men’s distance medley relay team of freshman Trey Robertson, junior Camden Sugden, sophomore Trevor Kuncl and senior Calvin Rohde placed 16th in the preliminaries with a time of 10:43.48.

Field took the forefront for Friday as most of the running events were preliminaries. Senior Chris Wren was the big Dawg of the day winning second in the men’s weight throw with a final throw of 65’0.75”.

Wren in his final year at Concordia has had his ups and downs with the variable nature of throwing events. One bad or good throw can make all the difference at a national meet. Wren was unable to make a good throw in the hammer event at the previous outdoor nationals and was 11th in the weight throw at the previous indoor nationals.

“It’s been a good career,” said Wren, “This is my last indoor season and so I’m just excited to move on to the next thing. This is my fourth All-American, so I’m just happy with where God’s put me in a position where I can achieve that.”

Fellow seniors Darien Semedo and Brady Klute also competed in the event. Semedo placed 13th with a PR throw of 57’9.5” and Klute placed 20th with a throw of 56’5.25”.

Another All-American award went to junior Abi Wohlgemuth in the women’s weight throw as she finished sixth with a 57’8.25” throw. Senior Kamryn Pokorney and junior Abigail Gerber also competed in the event. Pokorney placed 22nd with a throw of 52’0.75” and Gerber placed 24th with a 51’2.25”.

On the jumping side, junior Joel Rathe finished 15th in the men’s long jump with a jump of 22’9”. Sophomore Hayley Miles placed 24th in the women’s version with a jump of 16’9.25”.

Senior Josie Puelz returned to the pole vault event after being out with illness for most of the season. She placed seventh in the women’s pole vault with a final jump of 12’0.5”. Junior Erin Boggs placed 13th in the women’s pole vault with a PR jump of 11’8.5”, senior Amira Cummings placed 20th with a jump of 11’4.5” and senior Sydney Reichert was unable to make the first jump.

Despite the field heavy day, there was news from the track: the women’s 4×800 relay team of junior Jenna Esch, senior Rylee Haecker, junior Julie McIntyre and senior Kylahn Freiberg won the event with a scorchingly fast 9:06.48. The time beat the 9:08.93 school record set by this team earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, some Concordians faced elimination in the preliminaries. Sophomore sprinter Adrianna Rodencal barely missed qualifying for the women’s 60-meter hurdles by one millisecond. She had a time of 8.59.

Juniors Jordan Koepke and Rhaya Kaschinske placed in the double digits of their preliminary races. Koepke was 14th in the women’s 600-meter run with a time of 1:36.76 and Kaschinske was 17th in the women’s 1,000-meter run with a PR time of 3:03.44.

As Saturday rolled around and race finals began, Concordia took the All-American podium by storm starting off with the women’s mile. Freiberg returned to action to be runner-up in the event with a PR time of 4:54.09.

Freiberg, who was qualified for four separate events, had a tough choice since she could not run all of them competitively. Ultimately, she chose to focus on the one mile run.

“It was a difficult choice at first,” said Freiberg, “I think what it came down to was ever since high school I’ve always wanted to break five minutes in [the mile], and we already had a couple teammates in different other events, so I thought this was a great way for me to put more points on the board in a different event.”

While diversifying team scoring is a tough choice for a runner like Freiberg, she was incredibly happy to fulfill such a longtime dream.

“It hurts, but it’s so worth it!” said Freiberg, “It was very relieving to know that I can end my season on a high note like that. My biggest goal I’ve had for the longest time.”

Rohde followed up with a sixth place PR finish of 4:10.63 in the men’s mile, finally earning his first All-American award.

Haecker also returned to win third in the women’s 1,000-meter run with a PR and school record of 2:52.88. She broke the record of 2:53.46 set by Kimberly Wood in 2015.

“I was glad to finish out with a PR and a school record,” said Haecker, “So that was super cool. So definitely all by God though, for sure.”

Esch placed fourth in the women’s 800-meter run with a PR time of 2:13.54 earning her a sixth career All-American.

Finally, the 4×400 relay team of Esch, sophomore Kayla Kirchner, junior Trinity Tuls and Koepke finished off the running events for the day with a sixth place finish of 3:48.65.

As for the field events, senior Zach Zohner made waves by achieving his first pole vault championship with a PR jump of 17’2.75”. Zohner was runner-up at the previous indoor nationals and was third at the last outdoor national.

“It’s pretty special! I mean, coming here last year and getting second and then getting third at outdoor, it’s really special and I just gotta thank God cause I mean, that’s what all it came from! I didn’t know if it was gonna happen today. A few things just felt a little off, but I stuck to it and got it done!”

Sophomore Mayson Ostermeyer impressed the crowds at the men’s pole vault by greatly exceeding his 16th place seeding by tying for fifth with University of St. Francis’ Joe Painter with a PR jump of 15’11”.

Gerber returned for the women’s shot put event and took fifth for her second All-American award. She had a throw of 46’4”. Semedo and sophomore Carson Fehlhafer competed in the men’s shot put, but did not make the cut for finals. Semedo placed 16th with a throw of 52’1.75” and Fehlhafer placed 35th with a throw of 46’8.25”.

Miles, Noble and Walker competed in Saturday jumping events with Walker coming out with an eighth place finish and her first All-American. She had a 5’6” finish in the women’s high jump. Miles and Noble both competed in the women’s triple jump with Noble placing 26th with a jump of 36’2” and Miles placing 30th with a jump of 34’.

The success of the teams amazed head coach Matt Beisel who was ever thankful for the work of the fellow coaches, support staff and of course the athletes themselves. “It [the meet] went amazing, it was phenomenal!” said Beisel.

Bringing a trophy back for the women and having the men place in the top 10 for the first time since 2019 was truly special for the team as a whole. Though their purpose was to kick butt and win big, their focus was on the details rather than the big goals.

“It’s like I said to the whole team a little while ago, to me it’s about process rather than outcome,” said Beisel, “It’s like, let’s find joy in every day, let’s have these amazing relationships, let’s grow in our faith in God and just have a good time working hard, laughing and busting our butts. And then we do those things and the rest takes care of itself.”

God’s will and work was a consistent through-line for all the athletes this weekend. The trust and hope of each and every person on the team permeated their work to the glory of God.

“Again, I’ve been lifting this team up in prayer for weeks!” said Beisel, “But especially over this week and just asking God to be present with us whatever the outcome and He said yes to a lot of my prayers. And I’m so grateful for that and as I said in our prayer, I don’t take it for granted. I just think it’s amazing. I know—very aware how many teams there are who don’t ever have a chance at that and here we accomplished.”

With the outdoor season on the horizon, there is little time for the team to rest before they carve out placements for outdoor nationals in May.

Beisel was short and sweet with his goals. He said, “Enjoy the process, give it up to God and see what happens!”

The other athletes, many of which are seniors, have one last shot to hit their goals.

“We’re gonna see if we can push a little closer to that 65-meter mark,” said Wren, “I think if we do that, we might have a good shot at getting the national title and say that’s the goal. We’re gonna see if we can get there.”

“Hopefully to get my times under from the last two seasons,” said Freiberg, “My last two seasons I’ve been fighting a lot of illness and injury so I’m hoping this year will be better. But most of all, just to enjoy it and have fun!”

“I will be running the 1,500 [meter run], focusing on that,” said Haecker, “But hopefully get our 4×800 another national championship, that’d be super cool, take that outdoors!”

“I don’t wanna put any numbers on it,” said Zohner, “But I wanna keep just working on what I’ve been working on: my run and just planting a few things. I’ve got a few heights in my head, but I just wanna keep really focused on that.”

The outdoor season begins at the end of the month on March 23 with the Grand View University Viking Relays hosted by Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

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