Concordia set to host 2013 GPAC Cross Country Championships

Concordia set to host 2013 GPAC Cross Country Championships

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SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time since 2004, Concordia University will play host to the GPAC cross country championships when the women’s race gets started at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday. Head coach Kregg Einspahr’s Bulldogs hope to benefit from the home-course advantage just as they did in 2004 when Concordia’s men’s and women’s teams both captured GPAC titles.

“This certainly is a treat to be able to compete on our home course in front of a home crowd,” Einspahr said. “It is a definite home-field advantage.”

The 22nd-year head coach likes the way his squad has come on as the most important races of the season beckon. In Concordia’s most recent outing, the 16th-ranked Bulldog men won the team title at the Mount Marty Invite with junior Ben Sievert placing second in a time of 25:27.

With Sievert, twice named GPAC Runner of the Week this season, competing with the likes of Nebraska Wesleyan’s Johnny Rutford and Morningside’s Garrett Ehlers at the top of the heap, Concordia stands a legitimate chance to win the GPAC meet for the second-straight year.

“Obviously in the GPAC a conference championship is cherished,” Einspahr said. “This is as tough of a conference as it gets. GPAC conference championships are pretty special. There are probably four or five teams that could realistically win the men’s team championship on Saturday.”

Sievert, a native of Frankenmuth, Mich., would love to move up from his sixth-place finish at last year’s conference championships. The 2012 Concordia squad got great representation at the top with then senior Colin Morrissey winning the GPAC title in 25:08 and Hayden Hohnholt, now a senior, placing third in 25:16.

As the No. 16-ranked team in NAIA cross country, Concordia’s men enter the meet as the highest rated GPAC member. Dordt is ranked No. 23 while Morningside is receiving votes. The top-five finishers at last season’s GPAC championships were, in order: Concordia, Morningside, Nebraska Wesleyan, Doane and Dordt.

On the women’s side, Concordia’s outlook appears different than it did at this time a year ago when it had elite frontrunners in Sarah Kortze and Jena Schwalenberg, who used up their cross country eligibility last season. Kortze and Schwalenberg finished 1-2 at the GPAC meet as the Bulldogs placed second as a team.

The Bulldogs are now reliant upon the growth of underclassmen like sophomore Kim Wood and freshman Jessy Sweet – the team’s top runners throughout this season. Wood has made big strides in practice and came through with a 17th-place time of 19:32 at the Mount Marty Invite.

“On the women’s side, we had our best meet of the season at Mount Marty and our best workouts of the year last week,” Einspahr said. “So we are looking to have our best meet of the season on Saturday on our home course.”

The fifth-ranked Dordt women are coming off a championship at Mount Marty and are considered the favorite to take a second GPAC crown in a row. Doane, ranked No. 22 in the national poll, could also factor into the race for the title.

Last year’s top-five team finishers on the women’s side were, in order: Dordt, Concordia, Nebraska Wesleyan, Doane and Morningside.

Dating back to 1969, Nebraska Wesleyan holds the most combined GPAC/NIAC men’s team titles with 21. Concordia has the most individual titlists during that time period with 17. The Bulldogs have had three different individuals win three or more championships in a row: Dan Cloeter (1970-73), Einspahr (1979-81) and Brandon Seifert (1997-99).

Dating back to 1979, Nebraska Wesleyan also owns the most combined GPAC/NIAC women’s team titles with 12. Doane boasts the most individual titlists with 10.

Concordia men’s team conference titles (6): 1971, 1972, 1997, 2004, 2009, 2012

Concordia men’s individual conference titlists (17):
-Dan Cloeter (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973)
-Dave Cloeter (1975)
-Kregg Einspahr (1979, 1980, 1981)
-Zach Meineke (2008, 2009)
-Colin Morrissey (2012)
-Dana Schmidt (2010)
-Brandon Seifert (1997, 1998, 1999)
-Andrew Walquist (2003, 2004)

Concordia women’s team conference titles (5): 1995, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005

Concordia women’s individual conference titlists (7):
-Molly Engel (2002, 2003, 2004)
-Stacey Hain (1998)
-Sharon Holthaus (1980)
-Sarah Kortze (2012)
-Amy Luft (1997)

6 November 2013

2013 GPAC Championships - Saturday, Nov. 9
Seward, Neb.

Women's race - 10:45 a.m.
Men's race - 11:30 a.m.