SEWARD, Neb. – By the time the Concordia Early Bird got underway, it had been 272 days since the Concordia University Track & Field program had an opportunity to compete. The Bulldogs did not waste the moment. Over two days (Dec. 4-5) of action that played out inside the Walz Fieldhouse, Concordia athletes combined for a tally of nine automatic national qualifying marks, nine ‘B’ standard marks and five multi-event performances that met the minimum national qualifying standard.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s program welcomed athletes from eight competing institutions to the meet. Due to capacity limits, the numbers of athletes had to be restricted and no spectators were allowed. Despite some of these abnormalities, the Bulldogs were thankful to do their thing once again.
“I’m thankful we had it,” Beisel said. “I cannot stop thinking about the tens of thousands of NCAA and NAIA athletes who haven’t had a season and haven’t had anything since February. This is a special privilege – it’s a blessing. It’s something I’ve been praying to God about for a long time.”
The full list of Concordia athletes who put marks on the NAIA national board can be viewed at the bottom. Seven ‘A’ standards were turned in by members of the powerhouse Bulldog women’s team, which placed fourth in the NAIA at the 2020 indoor national meet. Of course that group includes returning national champion Rachel Battershell, who has again qualified in the 400 meters with her time of 57.46 on Saturday. Battershell and fellow junior Sarah Lewis form quite a 1-2 punch in the 400 and the 60 meter hurdles.
Lewis’ day included and automatic qualifying time of 8.93 in the hurdles (first place) and a ‘B’ standard in the 400 meters. In the 4×400 meter relay, Battershell and Lewis grouped with Amy Richert and Kennedy Mogul on a winning time of 4:02.10. It seems likely there are better things to come from this group.
Said Lewis, “In high school I didn’t have teammates to push me, so coming to Concordia and having people like Rachel Battershell push me every single day in practice makes me so much better than I could ever hope to be.”
In the field events, Anna Baack (pole vault; 11’ 6 ½”), Jamey Broman (long jump; 18’ 5”), Morgan De Jong (weight throw; 55’ 2”), reigning GPAC champ Josie Puelz (pole vault; 12’ 6 ¼”) and Katie Severt (long jump; 18’ 7 ¼”) all locked up spots at nationals. The sight of Baack clearing a national qualifying height represented one of the feel-good stories of the day. Now a senior, Baack has leapt a barrier she had been trying to clear since her freshman year.
The meet marked the swan song for assistant coach Wayne Earney, who will be moving to Wisconsin. Earney has overseen a jumps group that has continued to make big strides in recent years. A sophomore who reached nationals as a freshman, Severt is one of a number of Bulldogs who could challenge the school long jump record this season.
“We’re definitely very sad to see him go,” Severt said of Earney. “Because he helped us so much … It was a great experience (last year at nationals). It let me see what was out there against different competition. It was a lot of fun and I’m excited to go back there this year.”
Beisel is glad to have 2019 GPAC Outdoor Athlete of the Year Cody Williams back in the mix after he missed nearly all of the 2020 indoor season. Williams surpassed 5,000 points (first place in the meet) in the heptathlon for a total that should put him in the national field. He achieved a ‘B’ standard (15’ 3”) in the pole vault as part of his two days of action.
Both automatic standards for the men were accomplished on the track, thanks to the work of sophomore Colton Meyer (60 hurdles; 8.17) and junior Xavier Ross (400 meters; 48.85). With his PR in the hurdles, Meyer inched closer to the school record of 8.14. The Lincoln Lutheran High School product is in the process of becoming a star. He also produced a ‘B’ standard in the 400 meters and as part of the 4×4.
“The biggest thing was just expecting to have a season,” Meyer said of his preparation. “Really just had to do what the coaches told us to do. We stayed on each other really well to make sure we were giving a full effort every practice. A team mentality, together kept us all focused.”
Along with Williams, Jeremiah Reeser (4,449) also achieved a minimum reporting total in the heptathlon. On the women’s side of the multi-events, the Bulldogs boast a deep group that includes returning GPAC champion Kennedy Mogul. Loy (3,146), Richert (3,137) and Mogul (3,112) placed 1-2-3 in the Early Bird pentathlon with totals that would have each ranked inside the top 15 of the NAIA last season.
There were plenty of other noteworthy performances up and down the roster. As host of the meet, Concordia had many more entrants than the other competitors. In the throws, Coach Ed McLaughlin is retooling with a younger group. In addition to De Jong’s auto mark, Sarah Ragland and Christopher Wren turned in ‘B’ standards in the weight throw. Elsewhere, Bulldogs who formerly competed in other sports (such as Jacob Jennings and Sydni Schernikau) got acclimated to the track.
“I love the fact that we can come to a pre-Christmas meet like we did last year and walk away with a number of auto marks, as well as a number of ‘B’ standard qualifying marks in multiple events,” Beisel said. “That’s what happened today and yesterday. I’m pleased with it. We’re in a culture here where we’re never really content or satisfied so I’m always like ‘They’re could have been a little more,’ and I know the kids think so too. That said, we had some really big performances.”
It will be 2021 when Concordia returns to competition. The Bulldogs are slated to be at both the Scott Nisely Invite (hosted by Doane) and the Dakota Wesleyan Invite on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Early Bird – National Qualifying Marks
· Anna Baack – pole vault
· Rachel Battershell – 400 meters
· Jamey Broman – long jump
· Morgan De Jong – weight throw
· Sarah Lewis – 60 hurdles
· Colton Meyer – 60 hurdles
· Josie Puelz – pole vault
· Xavier Ross – 400 meters
· Katie Severt – long jump
· Men’s 4×400 meter relay (Meyer, Ross, Reimer, Jennings)
· Women’s 4×400 meter relay (Richert, Lewis, Mogul, Battershell)
· Chase Berry – pole vault
· Sarah Lewis – 400 meters
· Cora Olson – long jump
· Colton Meyer – 400 meters
· Sarah Ragland – weight throw
· Cody Williams – pole vault
· Christopher Wren – weight throw
Heptathlon/Pentathlon Minimum Standard
· Emily Loy
· Kennedy Mogul
· Jeremiah Reeser
· Amy Richert
· Cody Williams