GPAC Championships: Shaw dominates, women win another conference title

SEWARD, Neb. – Powered by elite athletes such as Rachel Battershell, Addie Shaw and Josie Puelz, the Concordia University Women’s Track and Field program has continued its string of dominant performances at GPAC championship meets. The Bulldog women piled up 259.5 team points while winning the 2021 outdoor conference title by a margin of nearly 100 points. Meanwhile, the Concordia men totaled 102 points and placed fourth. The GPAC outdoor meet unfolded Friday and Saturday (April 30 – May 1) on the home turf of the Bulldogs.

Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads combined to win seven GPAC event titles (full list at bottom), including one conference relay championship apiece for the men and women. Beisel has now guided the women’s program to conference titles in five-straight GPAC meets.

“We take a tremendous amount of pride in putting on well-run meets and the GPAC is the capstone,” Beisel said. “It turned out great. It feels great to have the win for the women. The men placed fourth against some great teams. We had fantastic performances in every event area, both men and women. We had school record and GPAC record performances. It felt so weird not to have travel for the conference meet. I’m extremely grateful to God for putting all the resources and people in place to make this happen.”

Puelz did her thing on Friday when she broke the GPAC meet record in the pole vault. As for Shaw, her weekend was massively impressive. The two-time discus national champion popped off personal bests in each of her three events – hammer (188’ 5”), shot put (49’ 4 ¼”) and discus (164’ 11”). Shaw won GPAC titles in the hammer and shot put and placed second in discus. Those efforts amounted to 28 team points all by herself. Shaw figures to also compete for NAIA national titles in each of those events.

Said Shaw, “It’s been coming together. I had a couple rough meets before this. I’ve been working really hard and God gave us a great day today to throw. We got it done today. It was a really good day for everyone all around.”

Everything Battershell touches seems to turn to gold. The native of Wheatland, Wyo., claimed the seventh and eighth GPAC titles of her career by winning the 400 meter hurdles (1:02.31) and running the anchor for the first-place 4×400 meter relay (3:55.28). Not only that, Battershell broke her own school record in the 100 meter hurdles (14.25) and placed second in the event. She tallied 20.5 team points.

There’s a lot of focus that goes into perfecting her own individual events, but Battershell understands something special is happening for the entire team. Said Battershell, “Every time we have a meet – I don’t get to have a chance to watch the throws very often – but we’re insane. What a great community whether it’s the throws, the jumps or on the track. Our team has really come together this year. I’m really excited to see what we can do.”

Concordia’s success on the women’s side has been about stacking points in many event groupings. The well-rounded Cora Olson notched 22 points (second in 4×100 meter relay; third in 100 meters; third in 200 meters; fourth in triple jump; sixth in long jump). Some fruitful event areas on Saturday included the shot put (22 points), 400 hurdles (18 points), heptathlon (17 points), discus (17 points) and 100 hurdles (16 points). Bethany Shaw recorded finishes of third in discus and fourth in hammer.

Runner up finishes on the weekend for the Bulldog women were turned in by the 4×100 meter relay, Battershell (100 hurdles), Sydney Clark (10,000 meters), Rylee Haecker (1,500 meters), Sarah Lewis (400 hurdles), Emily Loy (heptathlon), Sarah Ragland (hammer) and Shaw (discus). The women’s 4×1 featured Loy, Amira Cummings, Hannah Mulligan and Olson. Lewis also placed third in the 100 hurdles. Battershell and Lewis teamed up with Keri Bauer and Sydni Schernikau in the 4×4.

On the men’s side, the thrill of the day was delivered by the 4×100 meter relay that out-kicked the rest of the GPAC by finishing in 42.35 seconds. That time was a collaboration between Cade Kleckner, Joel Rathe, Jacob Jennings and Colton Meyer. Concordia had never won this particular relay at the conference championships during the tenures of any of the current coaches.

Said Kleckner, “We came into today knowing we were going to be competitive. We’ve run competitive times all year so we knew if we put it all together today we’d be able to compete, if not win. That’s exactly what happened today. I’m really proud of our guys. It took a lot of effort and energy to get that to come together. Once it went together, you saw the result today.”

Throwing superstar Jacob Cornelio paced the men’s team with 18 points. He won the GPAC hammer throw title on Friday and then came back on Saturday with a personal best and fresh automatic national qualifying mark of 166’ 5” in the discus (second place). The hammer proved to be a significant event for the men with 21 points coming out of it (and three marks that eclipsed the automatic national qualifying standard).

In addition to Cornelio taking second in discus, Camden Sesna placed as the runner up in the 3,000 meter steeplechase (9:53.73). Entering the day, Kleckner appeared to have a shot at winning the 200 meters in a strong GPAC field. He wound up in fourth (21.54) while meeting the NAIA provisional standard. Kleckner also competed for the 4×400 meter relay that placed fifth. The men’s 4×8 duplicated that finish coming in fifth. A budding star, Meyer ran in the 4×1 and 4×4 and placed fourth in the open 400 meters (49.50).

Before focusing on the national championships, the Bulldogs have the Hastings Invite (May 8) and the Concordia Twilight Meet (May 14) on their upcoming schedule. Those meets will provide additional opportunities for national qualifying marks.

Said Beisel, “We are working to make this continue on the women’s side and to get our men where they have a consistent shot at winning conference. I know our guys want it and they gave it their best. I’m excited about where we’re going from here to nationals. We have some big things to accomplish beyond conference.”

2021 GPAC Outdoor Champions

· Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay (Cade Kleckner, Joel Rathe, Jacob Jennings, Colton Meyer)

· Women’s 4×400 Meter Relay (Keri Bauer, Sarah Lewis, Sydni Schernikau, Rachel Battershell)

· Rachel Battershell (400 Meter Hurdles)

· Jacob Cornelio (Hammer Throw)

· Josie Puelz (Pole Vault)

· Addie Shaw (Hammer Throw; Shot Put)

· Liz Stottlemyre (Javelin)