SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Forty-five Bulldogs galloped underneath the lights in Sioux Falls, S.D., as part of a late night meet to open up the 2018 season. Senior Taylor Grove and freshman Wyatt Lehr paced the Concordia University cross country squads at the Augustana Twilight on Friday (Aug. 31). The Bulldogs placed 12th out of 25 teams on the women’s side and 16th out of 23 teams on the men’s side.
The meet was a change of pace for head coach Matt Beisel’s programs, which did not begin the 2017 season until Sept. 9. The Augustana Twilight featured competing institutions from the NAIA, NCAA Division I, II and III levels.
For Grove, the outing marked her first cross country meet since the 2016 GPAC championships. She returned from the injury that sidelined her last fall and ran a 19:23.67 on the 5K course. She placed 47th out of 277 runners. Followed by Grove in the team’s top seven were freshman Abi DeLoach (20:01.54; 84th), juniors Rebekah Hinrichs (20:36.28; 123rd) and Miranda Rathjen (20:51.89; 133rd), senior Jacy Johnston (21:02.82; 143rd) and sophomores Lydia Cook (21:06.69; 146th) and Sydney Clark (21:10.41; 151st).
“I’m proud of all our women, who not only had a lot of fun at this exciting meet, but also had their confidence boosted,” Beisel said. “Our level of competitiveness as a team is beyond what it was last year, and I can’t wait to see how the season unfolds. Hannah Rebmann, a talented transfer from Pittsburg State, wasn’t able to run this meet. She will be a difference maker for our team going forward.”
A native of Lamar, Colo., Lehr appears to be the real deal as a rookie. He outran each of his teammates at last week’s Blue-White run and then backed that performance up with a nice showing in Sioux Falls. The men’s race covered 7K instead of the usual 8K. Lehr finished in 23:39.85, putting him in 92nd place out of 266 runners. Lehr was followed in the Bulldog lineup by senior Thomas Taylor (23:56.87; 110th), sophomore Christian Van Cleave (24:09.41; 118th), senior Evan Asche (24:56.25; 148th), sophomores Patrick Schneeberger (24:58.51; 152nd) and Jordan Lorenz (25:13.74; 164th) and freshman Ethan Pankow (25:20.08; 169th).
“Our guys showed a lot of guts with how they competed, and we are going to work on further developing our mental toughness and competitive mindset so we can fight our way into a top three spot in conference,” Beisel said. “Josiah McAllister, one of our top men, was unable to compete because of a medical school interview. Adding him to the mix at Hastings in two weeks could be big for our guys.”
Grove and the women’s team fared well compared to comparative competition, placing third among the 10 NAIA squads and third out of the eight GPAC teams in attendance. The Bulldogs beat out the likes of Dakota Wesleyan, Mount Marty, Doane, Briar Cliff and Midland. On the men’s side, Concordia placed fifth out of nine schools. Lehr and the men outraced Morningside, Briar Cliff and Dakota Wesleyan.
Concordia is looking to move up the GPAC standings this season after finishing fifth on the women’s side and sixth on the men’s side in 2017.
The season will resume on Saturday, Sept. 15 when the Bulldogs compete at the Bronco Stampede hosted by Hastings. The first race is set to go off at 10:30 a.m. from Lake Hastings Park. Five meets are scheduled prior to the GPAC championships in November.