Bulldog cross country: 2013 season preview
Head Coach: Kregg Einspahr (21 years; four conference titles; 14 national top 25 finishes)
2012 Finishes: first in GPAC; 21st at National Championships
Key Returners: Beau Billings, Charlie Bloomfield, Hayden Hohnholt, Taylor Mueller, Creighton Pearce, Jordan Potrzeba, Adam Prahlow, Ben Sievert
Key Loss: Joel Heckmann, Jared Hoffman, Colin Morrissey
2012 GPAC All-Conference: Kregg Einspahr (Coach of the Year), Colin Morrissey (Runner of the Year), Hayden Hohnholt, Ben Sievert
Head Coach: Kregg Einspahr (21 years; five conference titles; 17 national top 20 finishes)
2012 Finishes: second in GPAC (Sarah Kortze and Jena Schwalenberg qualified individually for nationals)
Key Returners: Michaela Curran, Shelby Hohnholt, Megan Letts, Erika Schroeder, Theresa Staley, Jenean Williams, Renee Williams, Kim Wood
Key Losses: Sarah Kortze, Christina Roach, Jena Schwalenberg, Christina Tomka
2012 GPAC All-Conference: Sarah Kortze (Runner of the Year), Jena Schwalenberg
2012 NAIA All-America: Sarah Kortze
By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant
The scorching summer heat has done little to slow the training of the Bulldog men’s and women’s cross country teams as they prepare to race through another season. All attention is focused upon getting to Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., the site of this year’s NAIA cross country championships.
Head coach Kregg Einspahr returns for his 22nd season at the helm of a program with high expectations.
With the losses of standout runners Colin Morrissey, Sarah Kortze and Jena Schwalenberg, Einspahr isn’t spending much time looking back.
“You just don’t replace those individuals,” Einspahr said. “You start over. Every year is a different dynamic. Every year teams are different. They respond differently. It’s a little bit of an experiment every year to see what’s going to work with them and hope you get it right.”
Entering the season with a No. 14 national ranking, the men will be gearing up for their second-straight trip to the national meet and their 12th appearance in 13 years.
The men’s squad will bring back a lot of experience from their national qualifying team a year ago. Of the seven individuals who raced in Vancouver, Wash., six return.
The team will be led by juniors Ben Sievert and Hayden Hohnholt, who will provide a solid one-two punch as race front runners.
“Hayden and Ben both have been training well over the summer and tend to be able to handle some good training and stay healthy, which is extremely important in terms of consistency,” Einspahr said. “You’ve always got to have those frontrunners to be a very good team and we should with those two.”
While the team boasts an excellent duo in Sievert and Hohnholt, there is work to be done with the remaining spots that will fill a roster to win the GPAC championship and earn Concordia a second consecutive trip to the national meet.
“The real question is how we are going to stack up from three through six,” Einspahr said. “That’s going to be the key for us to be a good team. We have personnel who can step up into those positions. We’ll just have to see if they’re focused, healthy and competing well. I think they’ve had a reasonably good summer of training and can step into those spots.”
Among the runners that Einspahr noted could compete for the next four spots are juniors Adam Prahlow, Beau Billings, Matthias Wollberg, Charlie Bloomfield, sophomores Jordan Potrzeba and Taylor Mueller and up-and-coming freshman Chris Shelton.
Entering his third season as a Bulldog, Sievert displayed nothing but confidence as he broke down his goals for the 2013 season.
“Team wise, I think we should have another shot to win the conference title,” Sievert said. “Obviously our goal every year is to make the national championship. As a team, one of our goals should be to be focused all season long and bring it every day to practice because that’s where it starts and we need to give God all the glory in all that we do.”
The women’s squad will be in search of new leadership and front-running capabilities after the loss of national All-American Sarah Kortze and fellow national qualifier Jena Schwalenberg.
“We certainly don’t have the experience we’ve had in past years so there are a lot of question marks on the women’s side in terms how we’re going to stack up in the conference and on the national level,” Einspahr said.
Sophomore Kim Wood and junior Renee Williams will lead the way for a team that includes a “strong group of incoming freshmen.”
Wood returns for her second career cross country season after a breakout year on the track last season.
“She’s been training very well,” Einspahr said of Wood. “She had some excellent marks last year during the track season. I think she can be a top runner in the conference.”
Williams also finished the 2013 track season well, and will look for her success to carry over onto the grassy terrains.
“I think cross country really suits her well,” Einspahr said. “She’s a strong runner. If she comes in healthy and can stay healthy, I think she can look forward to having a very good season.”
Staring into the face of the upcoming season, Williams acknowledged the need for overall team improvement, and a hard work ethic that will be crucial for the team’s success this season.
“I think we need to come together as a team because right now it’s looking like we have a lot of work to do before our races,” Williams said. “We need to not be afraid to go for it. We need to put it all out on the course. If we’re not giving 110 percent, we’re not going to make it anywhere.”
“We definitely want to keep God in the center because we’re not going to get anywhere without that. If we can humble ourselves and keep Him in the center, that’s going to be really good. We’re going to try and do a lot more team bonding this year so that we can encourage each other and make sure that we’re not trying to go at it by ourselves.”
As the season continues to unfold, Einspahr noted that the first couple meets will give him a good idea of where his runners are at and the amount of effort that they put into their off season training. However it is important to remember, he stated, that the ultimate goal will be towards the end of the season, and will not ride as heavily as the results early on.
“We’ll start a little slow this year,” Einspahr said. “I think it’s important to always remember that what happens at the end of the season in cross country and track is what’s most important. I’m not going to get in a big hurry to push too hard, too early. It’s what happens in November that counts, not in September. We may be training pretty hard, but we may not necessarily look like world beaters early in the season. It will come down to November for conference and national championships.”
As for the rest of the conference, the Bulldog women will likely find themselves in a battle for the GPAC championship with Doane, Nebraska Wesleyan and defending champion, Dordt.
The men will be in contention with Morningside and Nebraska Wesleyan among others to earn their second-straight conference title.
The first gun sounds on Saturday, Sept. 14 when Concordia hosts the Short Course meet at 10 a.m.
10 September 2013