2014 Cross Country schedule/results

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 13 Blue-White Alumni Meet Concordia - Seward, Neb. Results
Sept. 20 Woody Greeno Invite Pioneer Park - Lincoln, Neb. M - 5 of 13
W - 4 of 14 
Sept. 27 Roy Griak Invitational Bolstad GC - St. Paul, Minn. M - 20 of 33
W - 20 of 35 

OCTOBER

Oct. 11 NAIA Preview Meet Rim Rock Farm - Lawrence, Kan. M - 10 of 31
W - 17 of 32 
Oct. 25 Mount Marty Invite Regional Center - Yankton, S.D. M - 6 of 16
W - 4 of 17 

NOVEMBER

Nov. 8 GPAC Championships Dakota Wesleyan - Mitchell, S.D. W - 4th of 11
M - 5th of 11
Nov. 22 NAIA National Championships Rim Rock Farm - Lawrence, Kan. Men's results

2014 Cross Country Rosters

Men:

Name Yr. Hometown
Josh Allwardt Sr. Frederick, Md.
Charlie Bloomfield Sr. Blair, Neb.
Ethan Bruggeman So. Lincoln, Neb.
Coleman Cogswell So. McCool Junction, Neb.
Christian Egger So. Galva, Iowa
Kohlton Gabehart Fr. Pleasant Dale, Neb.
Matt Kortze Fr.  Rockford, Ill.
Andrew Malan Sr. Lincoln, Neb.
Ben Montgomery Jr. North Platte, Neb.
Taylor Mueller Jr. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Jordan Potrzeba Jr. Hastings, Neb.
Luke Riley Sr. Lincoln, Neb.
Casey Roberts Sr. Wamego, Kan.
Chris Shelton So. Minden, Neb.
Ben Sievert Sr. Frankenmuth, Mich.
Tim von Behren Sr. Elk Creek, Neb.
JT Vecera Fr. Fremont, Neb.
Cole Wohlgemuth Fr. Alta, Iowa
Matthias Wollberg Sr. Kearney, Neb.
Pat Wortmann Fr. Hartington, Neb.


Women:

Name Yr. Hometown
Breanna Brockhaus Jr. Humphrey, Neb.
Megan Burma Jr. Platte, S.D.
Ashley Canfield So. Crete, Neb.
Michaela Curran Jr. Wahoo, Neb.
Haley Harpham Sr. McCook, Neb.
Shelby Hohnholt Sr. Saratoga, Wyo.
Lauren Pankow Jr. Milwaukee, Wis.
Elizabeth Rasmussen So. Omaha, Neb.
Erika Schroeder Sr. Davenport, Neb.
Emily Sievert Fr. Frankenmuth, Mich.
Angie Steinbacher So. St. Charles, Mo.
Jordyn Sturms So. Parker, Colo.
Lauren Wilcox Fr. Seward, Neb.
Renee Williams Sr. Lincoln, Neb.
Kim Wood Jr. Greeley, Neb.

2014 cross country season preview

By Taylor Mueller, Athletic Communications Assistant

MEN
Head Coach: Kregg Einspahr (23rd year)
2013 Finishes: 3rd in GPAC; 24th at national championships
Key Returners: Josh Allwardt, Charlie Bloomfield, Taylor Mueller, Jordan Potrzeba, Chris Shelton, Ben Sievert
Key Losses: Beau Billings, Hayden Hohnholt
2013 GPAC All-Conference: Beau Billings, Hayden Hohnholt, Jordan Potrzeba, Ben Sievert
2013 NAIA All-America: Ben Sievert

WOMEN
Head Coach: Kregg Einspahr (23rd year)
2013 Finish: 5th in GPAC
Key Returners: Megan Burma, Ashley Canfield, Michaela Curran, Lauren Pankow, Erika Schroeder, Renee Williams, Kim Wood
Key Loss: Jenean Williams
2013 GPAC All-Conference: Renee Williams

Outlook:
Concordia Athletic Hall of Famer Kregg Einspahr returns for his 23rd season at the helm of the cross country program. Heading his lengthy list of achievements are 32 combined national top-25 finishes, nine conference titles five national runner-up claims. This year’s Bulldog cross country hope to add to those impressive totals.

Although they enter the 2014 year without a preseason ranking, the women’s squad is embracing a dark-horse mentality.

“I think we’re going to surprise some people this year,” Einspahr said. “You look at our finish last year and that was one of our poorest in probably nearly 20 years, but we had a lot of youth and bad luck at the end of the season with injuries and sickness. With a year of experience behind us and if we can keep some folks healthy, I think it will be a different game. I think we had some women who really improved over the summer who will make a difference for us.”

Leading the charge for the Bulldog women is the gritty junior and sprinter-turned distance runner, Kim Wood. And while the transition from running blink-of-an-eye races to running with the lead pack of a 5K race hasn’t been easy, Einspahr is confident in his leader.

“She’s had to try to develop into a distance runner and learn how to run a longer race,” Einspahr said. “It’s not been easy for her but she is one of the toughest competitors I have ever coached. She is tougher than nails. She’s got great foot speed, excellent overall body strength and is extremely competitive. She’s really looking to have a breakout season. We need a frontrunner. She’s really committed to doing that.”

Wood won’t be alone, however, in her quest to help bring the Bulldog women their first conference title in nine years. Einspahr noted several other women who should fit in nicely to a winning equation.

“Megan Burma looks like she had a good summer and has improved a lot,” Einspahr said. “Renee Williams should be in the mix for us. Ashley Canfield can help us out. Freshman Emily Sievert looks like she may be able to contribute to our success this season. There are a number of women in the mix. Erika Schroeder ran in our top seven much of the time last year. Beth Rasmussen, who ran track this past year for us, has never ran cross country but she looks like she’s going to be able to contribute in our top seven as well. I’m not quite sure how everybody’s going to stack up when we get into race mode.”

Wood is optimistic about the new season, and noted that there are a couple new faces that will certainly provide support to the Bulldog team.

“I’m really excited for this season,” Wood said. “We have two new freshmen who came in, Emily Sievert and Lauren Wilcox, and I think they’re really hard workers. They’ve been doing great in practice, so it will be really exciting to see what we can do this year with them. I’m excited to see where we’ll be in our upcoming meets.”

As for the competition, Doane and Dordt serve as favorites at the top of the conference. Last year’s GPAC champion, Dordt, returns eight of its top nine runners, each of whom placed in the top 21 at the 2013 conference meet. Likewise, Doane returns each of its top seven runners.

Despite the stiff competition, Wood’s goals and hopes for the team are unwavering.

“I think a good goal for the women’s cross country team would be to win the conference championship,” Wood said. “Doane and Dordt are some really good teams so hopefully we can give them a run for their money and come out on top.”

Wood also noted that with a lengthy season full of long runs, intense workouts and fatigued bodies, a confident mental mindset will be crucial if the team hopes to achieve its lofty goals.

“I think some areas we can improve on would be just staying positive,” Wood said. “Sometimes on our long runs it gets hard so I think keeping our attitudes positive, it really just helps and that will contribute to our team success.”

Ranked 21st in the preseason polls, the boys in blue are not shying away from high expectations of their own.

Led by their undisputed captain Ben Sievert, the Bulldogs boast one of the conference’s top front runners in the 2013 All-American. And while putting the bow on his stellar four-year career will surely be an excitement to watch, Einspahr couldn’t be more pleased to have the senior to lead his men’s squad.

“Last season gave him a lot of confidence,” Einspahr said. “I think it helped going down early in the season last year to the NAIA preseason meet in Lawrence. He did really well in that meet and got a feel for the course. I think that’s going to give him a lot of confidence going into this year.”

“He’s a real steady runner,” Einspahr said. “He’s responsible. He’s fairly resistant to injury, which is a key for sustained success in running. He’s just very coachable and easy to get along with. He’s a great teammate. He helps me out a lot in terms of working with the team. He’s really an all-around good guy.”

Sievert is anxious to get the season underway, and to avenge a disappointing 2013 team finish. To do so, he’s going to need some help.

“I’m really excited,” Sievert said. “Obviously coming off a long summer of training by yourself it’s really great to be back with the team. Coming off last year (and) finishing third in the conference when we were hoping to win it kind of left a bad taste in our mouths so we’re really excited to get back out there and compete for the championship this year.”  

With the departure of three key runners from last year’s national qualifying team, it’s finding a way to compete for a GPAC title and return to the national championships for a third-straight year that has left rather large shoes to be filled and questions that demand answers.

“Coach did a great job of bringing in some freshmen,” Sievert said. “They’ve been showing a lot of guts out there in the workouts, circuits and everything, so they look like they could be ready to fill those gaps.”

As for returners, Sievert is hoping that the veterans will provide a boost, and while overall he likes what he sees, he noted that there is some room for improvements to be made.

“I think one of the biggest things is that, we’ve got a really good front pack going right now. Josh (Allwardt) and Taylor (Mueller) have been running really well this summer and they’ve continued that through the first couple weeks of practice. Mathias (Wollberg) has been up front as well and they’ve been running great. Then we’ve got a really good second pack as well, there’s just a little too big of a gap there right now. As the season progresses, I know that’s going to shrink which will really help in meets because a lot of times the meet is won or lost with your (number) four, five and six runners. So if we can just close that gap and keep everyone working hard, which I know they will, it will be a really good improvement for us.”

Einspahr provided his own take as to how he sees the season shaping up, and his main ideas were not too far off from Sievert’s.

“We had a little bit of a mixed bag in terms of summer training with health. I think Josh Allwardt and Taylor Mueller have looked really good in practice so far,” Einspahr said. “I’m extremely pleased with both of them. I think they have a good chance to step in and replace the guys we lost and make up for that. It kind of depends on whether or not we can fill in well at our 4 and 5 spots and get some guys healthy. I think Chris Shelton and Jordan Potrzeba and some folks like that are going to have to have good seasons and finish out the season well.”

Never a conference to disappoint, the GPAC will once again provide plenty of competition for the Bulldogs. Einspahr noted Morningside, Doane and Northwestern as contenders to keep an eye on. However, with what he has seen so far, he’s feeling good about the team’s chances.

“Anytime you have a guy like Ben Sievert who can run in the top 15 at the national meet you have a chance to be a top 20 team if you can put some guys in there who are reasonably solid,” Einspahr said. “It looks to me like right now we can. I think the biggest question is how we’re going to stack up in the conference. In my mind, there’s no clear favorite right now. I think it will be a real battle in the conference. The top four or five teams on the men’s side are pretty comparable.”

Though the men’s and women’s teams have been hard at work long through the summer, things get down to business on Saturday (Sept. 13) when Concordia hosts its annual alumni short-course meet. Then on Sept. 20, the Bulldog officially open the 2014 season at the annual Woody Greeno Invite at Pioneer Park in Lincoln, Neb.

Wood chases adventure from the cliffs of Malta to the trails of Nebraska

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

During a normal summer, Kim Wood might be seen trekking across country roads, kicking up gravel in her hometown Greeley, Neb., a small town of 466 people. But the summer of 2014 took her far, far away from the family farm and what she perceived as normal. Instead of the usual cornfields as a backdrop, she found herself immersed in a foreign nation surrounded by the deep blue vastness of the Mediterranean Sea.

Needing to stay in shape for the upcoming cross country season, Wood still carved out time to run. She did so in the crowded streets of the European island of Malta, a picturesque nation located roughly 50 miles south of Sicily. The resulting photos of Wood posing amid exotic backgrounds had friends back home in Nebraska a tad envious.

“Some people would say, ‘I saw your pictures on Instagram and I’m such a good friend because I liked them even though I was so mad at you and jealous,’” Wood said.

Wood, expected to be the frontrunner for head coach Kregg Einspahr’s Bulldog women’s cross country squad, settled on a summer internship in Malta after her qualification for the NAIA outdoor track and field national championships prevented her from being part of Concordia’s medical mission trip. It all worked out just fine as the psychology and behavioral science major found an opportunity to work with a pediatric occupational therapist in Malta and experience a whole different world.

“I’m definitely a small-town farm girl,” Wood said. “It was a big change for me, especially going over there alone. I learned a lot. It was a really great experience. I learned a lot about different cultures and saw that there was more out there. My dad always told me, ‘Not everyone is from Nebraska, Kim.’ Yeah, I definitely learned that this summer. It was good just to experience different cultures.”

Wood got cultured by meeting her apartment roommates and locals, jumping off cliffs into St. Peter’s Pool, hanging out on Malta’s sandy beaches, living up the night life and visiting other nearby islands. Of course there was also the internship part of the more than two-month stay in the bustling city of greater than 400,000.

The internship offered Wood the chance to work with children of Malta who had autism, ADD or ADHD. She helped them learn everyday life skills such as how to dress, how to properly wash their hands, how to write and how to function at the right energy level.

For someone with an infectious personality, the internship proved to be a natural fit for Wood, who describes herself as someone with a “goofy personality, love for life and an ambition to chase down dreams.”

“I learned a lot this summer and I was able to do more in Malta than I would have been able to in the United States,” Wood said. “There was a lot more involvement with me in the clinic so that was really neat.”

Now back in Seward for her junior year, Wood will trade the swimsuit and Malta cliffs for her Bulldog cross country garb and lengthy running paths. A three-time NAIA All-American on the track, Wood now appears primed to carry that success over to cross country.

It’s no small feat that Wood has risen to the top of the heap for a program that has consistently produced NAIA top 25 and even national runner-up finishes.

“She is one of the toughest competitors I have ever coached,” Einspahr said of Wood. “She is tougher than nails. She’s got great foot speed, excellent overall body strength and is extremely competitive. She’s really looking to have a breakout season. I’m certainly hoping that she does because that’s what we need. We need a frontrunner. She’s really committed to doing that. She’s a hard worker and I think ready to have a great season.”

After finishing above her teammates in most of last season’s meets, Wood settled for 40th place at the 2013 GPAC Cross Country Championships. However, it was just her second season participating in cross country after running only track during her prep career at Greeley-Wolbach High School.

With a great offseason of training under her belt, the expectations are growing for the Bulldog frontrunner.

“For me it’s really a mental challenge,” Wood said of adjusting to cross country. “At first it was a physical challenge getting into that kind of shape. Now it’s definitely just a mental challenge getting into the right mindset. I wasn’t used to that. I’m still getting myself into that longer distance mode and keeping myself going over that long distance.”

At least Wood no longer has to worry about dodging cars traveling down the left side of the pedestrian-unfriendly streets of Malta. She may miss the beaches and the crystal clear Mediterranean waters, but it’s time for a new adventure – one she hopes ends with a little hardware and a trip to the national championships in November.

“We’re hoping to win the conference championship and I really think we can do it,” Wood said. “I think it’s a matter of saying we can do this and putting ourselves out there and running our best.”

Wood and company officially begin the season on Saturday at the annual Woody Greeno Invite held at Pioneer Park in Lincoln, Neb.

Alum Morrissey wins Omaha Corporate Cup 10K

Colin Morrissey, a 2013 graduate and 2012-13 Concordia Senior Male Athlete of the Year, won the 2014 Omaha Corporate Cup 10K race held Sunday in the streets of Omaha. A day earlier, Morrissey placed second behind only current Bulldog senior Ben Sievert with a time of 16:19.47 on the 5K course at the annual Blue-White Alumni meet on the Concordia University campus.

Morrissey finished the 10K Sunday race in 33:27, for an average of 5:23 per mile. His time out-paced a field of 2,630 runners at his hometown Omaha Corporate Cup 10K.

Morrissey concluded his Concordia career with three all-conference cross country performances (2012 GPAC runner of the year) while piling up 13 all-conference finishes as a distance runner on the track. The Omaha native captured conference titles in the 3,000 meter run at the 2013 GPAC Indoor Championships and in the one mile run at the 2011 GPAC Indoor Championships. His title at the 2011 conference meet helped boost him to GPAC Male Athlete of the Meet honors.

On the national level, Morrissey qualified for three separate national championship meets throughout his time at Concordia. He finished as an All-American in the 3,000 meter run at the 2010 NAIA Indoor National Championships.

Sieverts top Bulldogs; young runners come through with strong debuts

LINCOLN, Neb. – Based on the season-opening Woody Greeno Invite on Saturday, the Concordia University women’s cross country team may be a surprise to outsiders. Led by freshman Emily Sievert, the Bulldogs out-paced their conference rivals, including No. 17 Doane. The men also put together a solid overall day in their 8K race held at Pioneer Park in Lincoln, Neb.

As part of the College division, the Bulldog women placed fourth among 14 teams at Woody Greeno while the 20th-nationally ranked men finished fifth out of 13 teams. Both of 23rd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr’s teams placed above the GPAC field that included Doane, Nebraska Wesleyan and Midland.

Einspahr came away pleased with his young group of women. Sievert, who hails from Frankemuth, Mich., finished in 24:03.20 and placed 10th out of 138 runners in the College division. She was a frontrunner for a pack of Bulldogs whose top six was made up of four competitors making their collegiate debuts.

“I thought we had a real good day,” Einspahr said of the women, who are receiving votes in the national poll. “We ran really well. I was happy with Emily and Megan (Burma) and Kim (Wood) got in position early and finished well. I was pleased with Beth Rasmussen and Jordyn Sturms for their first times out. Jordyn is going to be a very good runner.

“They’re going to continue to get better. You’re always happy when you beat your conference rivals.”

Wood followed Sievert with a 24th-place finish by clocking in at 24:55.40 on the 6K course. The rest of the team’s top six included Sturms (25:05.30 – 27th), Rasmussen (25:05.90 – 29th), Burma (25:18.00 – 36th) and freshman Lauren Wilcox (25:20.80 – 38th).

As Einspahr noted, four of the six are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Sievert’s fine work did not shock her head coach.

“She was one of the top high school runners in Michigan,” Einspahr said. “It doesn’t really surprise me. She actually didn’t have her best race. She struggles a little bit with her breathing in warm and humid conditions like today. She should be even better when we start having cooler conditions.”

On the men’s side, Ben Sievert, the older brother of Emily, again showed off All-America form by placing eighth out of 181 runners with his time of 26:34.10, a rock solid time given the slick and muddy conditions caused by overnight rain.

“Ben ran really well,” Einspahr said. “Overall with all schools factored in he was 16th or 17th. It’s hard to say what to take away with the conditions like they were. The times were the slowest I’ve seen for the men in my 20-plus years here.”

Jordan Potrzeba was next in line for the Concordia men with his 33rd-place finish in a time of 28:10.90. The rest of the top six included senior Josh Allwardt (28:26.80 – 39th), junior Taylor Mueller (29:14.20), freshman Kohlton Gabehart (29:24.30 – 70th) and senior Andrew Malan (29:35.60 – 77th).

Einspahr liked the way Gabehart acquitted himself in his first college race.

“Kohlton is a real good competitor,” Einspahr said. “He’s getting stronger and he’s a really nice runner. He’s been a little bit of a surprise to me. He’s going to be a really good college runner and will continue to get better and better.”

The Bulldogs will compete in an even larger meet next Saturday when they take part in the annual Roy Griak Invitational in St. Paul, Minn. The meet is one of the largest combined collegiate/prep cross country events in the United States.

It will be another great test for Einspahr’s improving squads.

“These two teams should get better as the season goes on,” Einspahr said. “We have to bring them along slowly based on the type of runners they are and the experience levels they have.”

Women’s cross country cracks national top 25 after impressive Woody Greeno meet

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

SEWARD, Neb. – Despite a youthful squad that includes several runners getting accustomed to the rigors of cross country, 23rd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr’s women are already making waves. On Wednesday the Bulldog women’s cross country team cracked the NAIA coaches’ top 25 poll, checking in at No. 23.

It’s a significant rise for a team that received only eight points and was listed 12th among “others receiving votes” just a week earlier. Led by freshman Emily Sievert’s 10th-place individual finish, Concordia opened its season impressively by finishing fourth out of 14 teams in the College division at the annual Woody Greeno Invite. Furthermore, the Bulldogs beat out then No. 17 Doane as well as GPAC rivals Nebraska Wesleyan and Midland.

“I thought we had a real good day,” Einspahr said after the meet. “We ran really well. I was happy with Emily and Megan (Burma), and Kim (Wood) got in position early and finished well. I was pleased with Beth Rasmussen and Jordyn Sturms for their first times out. Jordyn is going to be a very good runner.

“They’re going to continue to get better. You’re always happy when you beat your conference rivals.”

After finishing fifth in the GPAC last season, the Bulldogs began this season off the national radar. However, Einspahr believes he has a team capable of exceeding outside expectations.

“I think we’re going to surprise some people this year,” Einspahr said prior to the beginning of the season. “You look at our finish last year and that was one of our poorest in probably nearly 20 years, but we had a lot of youth and bad luck at the end of the season with injuries and sickness. With a year of experience behind us and if we can keep some folks healthy, I think it will be a different game.”

From 1994-2011, the Concordia women’s cross country program finished in the top 20 nationally in all but one season. Included in that run were five conference titles and four national runner-up claims.

Men hold at No. 20: The Concordia men, who also started out strong at Woody Greeno, held steady at 20th in the NAIA poll. Last season the Bulldogs placed 24th at the national meet on the strength of Ben Sievert’s All-America finish.

Grand Griak meet provides learning experience for top 25 cross country squads

By Taylor Mueller, Athletic Communications Assistant

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Concordia Bulldogs made their annual trek St. Paul, Minn., to compete in the grand Roy Griak Invitational against top level competition. The field provided plenty of quality opponents to challenge the Bulldogs and provide an accurate portrayal of where Concordia stacks up among other schools. At the end of the day, both the men’s and women’s squads finished in 20th place out of 33 and 35 teams, respectively, on the hilly and challenging course.  

It certainly was not the day the Bulldogs were hoping for, nor did it meet the expectations they had coming into the meet.

“We can run a lot better,” head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “We need to run better if we want to be competitive at the conference and national level. It was another learning experience for us.”

Leading the charge for the women was freshman Emily Sievert who finishe time of 24:31, taking 68th place out of 325 runners.

“I felt pretty good,” Emily Sievert said. “I felt much better than last week, but my time didn’t really reflect that much. I think I just need to learn how to run a bit more aggressively.”

Filling out the rest of the scoring sheet for the Bulldogs was junior Megan Burma in 25:03, freshman Lauren Wilcox in 25:26, sophomore Jordyn Sturms in 25:49 and junior Kim Wood in 25:58.

“I thought (freshman) Lauren Wilcox had a good race today. Emily Sievert is doing a good job of working her way up to the front pack and is looking good,” Einspahr said.

On a day filled with mixed emotions for several athletes, Emily Sievert commented on what she thought of her team’s performance and explained why the process toward progression will require some patience on the part of the women.

“I think as a team we didn’t do as well as we thought we would,” Emily Sievert said. “Several of us are new to college running and I just think we have a lot to learn. It wasn’t a great day for the team, but I really think we have a lot of potential. We’re still building and we have a lot to work with. As the season goes, I’m sure we will be a really strong team to look out for.”

“I think it’s going to be very important for us to get stronger so we can hold good positions throughout the whole race,” Emily Sievert said. “Also, I think learning to run the race as a team will be really helpful for us. Pushing each other during races will improve us individually, but especially as a team.”

As for the men, senior Ben Sievert headed the effort with his 44th place finish and a time of 27:29.

“I was pretty disappointed with it to be honest,” Ben Sievert said. “I thought I got out OK but I was probably a little too far ahead than I should have been. I was 5:00 through the first mile which was 10 seconds slower than last week actually, but I wasn’t able to hold it today and I lost a whole bunch of spots in the 3 or 4k of the race which really hurt me. Overall, it’s a good experience to move on from and learn from. Hopefully next meet at pre nationals I’ll run a little smarter, race a little better and finish stronger than I did today.”

Senior Josh Allwardt was next in line for the Bulldogs, finishing in 28:23. Junior Taylor Mueller was not far behind, closing in at 28:26. On his heels was junior Jordan Potrzeba in 28:32 followed by freshman Kohlton Gabehart in 28:39.

We’ve got a really big gap right now between Ben and our second pack,” Einspahr said. “That’s something that we really need to shorten up.”

Ben Sievert commented on the day that the men’s squad had, as the team overall fell short of the goals they had going into the meet.

“I thought it was kind of a tossup for a lot of guys,” Ben Sievert said. “Some guys ran excellent, and then we also had some guys who weren’t quite where they wanted to be so it’s tough to really put a word on how everyone did as a whole. There were some ups and downs for the whole team. We don’t like losing to Dordt, Northwestern and Morningside so that really hurt.”

With two weeks of race recovery and training coming up, the Bulldogs will be able to regroup and refocus on what they need to do to be more competitive through the remainder of the season.

“We’re really hoping to use these next couple weeks that we have off to get back out there and train hard so we can come back for conference and kind of just give them a run for their money now, because we’re kind of the dark horse after a meet like this,” Ben Sievert said. “After losing to those guys, we really need to keep working hard and keep our heads up and hopefully come back strong again to our next meet.”

Concordia’s next meet will take place on Saturday, Oct. 11 when it heads to Lawrence, Kan., to compete in the NAIA Preview Meet.

Sievert shows All-America form to highlight NAIA Preview meet

By Taylor Mueller, Athletic Communications Assistant

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With potential national qualifying implications on the line and a fantastic chance to prove their worth on a national stage amongst top NAIA competition, the Concordia Bulldogs trekked to Lawrence, Kan., to compete in the NAIA preview meet on the famed Rim Rock Farm course.

Coming off a tough and disappointing finish at the Roy Griak meet in Minnesota, the Bulldogs were anticipating a better performance in Kansas. At the end of the day, however, the women’s squad boarded the bus back home still in the developmental phase while the men had mixed emotions.

On the women’s side, freshman Emily Sivert led the way for the Bulldog women with a time of 19:41. Junior Megan Burma finished in second for Concordia, crossing the line in 20:11.

Burma explained that while it wasn’t the result they were hoping for, the women’s squad did take some strides in the competitive meet.

“I think we all knew we could have done a little better, but regardless of that we came together better than we’ve done before,” Burma said. “Each girl’s time was closer than they have been in the (been) in the past two meets.”

Closing in behind Burma was sophomore Jordyn Sturms in 20:19. Junior Kim Wood was next in 20:44 with freshman Lauren Wilcox bringing in the rear for the top five in 20:53.

Head coach Kregg Einspahr provided insight as to what the women’s squad needs to continue to work on, which has remained the common theme throughout the season.

“We really need to probably get a little better position early in the race to finish better as a team,” Einspahr said. “It’s a lot of young runners and we’re learning about how to run these races. I didn’t think we had a great race. We certainly didn’t have a poor race. We need to do a little bit better in terms of just working as a team. The gals wanted to finish quite a bit better as a team.”

Einspahr’s thoughts on the men’s performance were very similar to those for the women. Having dropped heavily from the rankings, the men were prepared to get themselves back in the top 25 conversation with a solid effort at Rim Rock. The result, however, was not quite what they hoped for.

Senior Ben Sievert paced the Bulldogs with his 6th place overall finish in 25:43. His performance certainly led the way for the men’s squad, though the cast behind him was again reminded of the amount that they need to improve to close the gap between their captain.

“(We) went out and did a good job of getting ourselves in position to run out of,” Einspahr said. “Ben Sievert had a great race today I thought, really a tremendous race. We need to do a better job. We’ve got a huge gap between our number one and our number two runners right now. If we’re going to be a good team, we need to have someone step up and be able to run in that area.”

Einspahr explained what is happening right now with the men’s squad when they enter into the “uncomfortable” part of the race and how it is affecting the overall team performance.  

“We’re losing position from our number two through our number five runners in the race right now. We need to do a better job of getting a little tougher and holding our position in the middle of the race.”

Junior Jordan Potrzeba was second for Concordia in 27:06. Senior Josh Allwardt was next in 27:34 with junior Taylor Mueller not far behind in 27:42. Freshman Kohlton Gabehart was on his heels, finishing in 27:55.

“Overall it was an OK turn out,” Allwardt said. “We didn’t beat some of the teams was wanted to. Dordt had a solid pack that we should be able to beat, but we beat some decent teams like Wayland Baptist. If we can work together as a pack to narrow the gap between our first and second runners, we should be in good shape.”

With just one race left until the conference meet that will decide the fate of the men’s and women’s teams, Burma called on her teammates to toughen up and give themselves more of a chance to compete at a higher level.

“We need to build up a little more confidence and not allow ourselves to settle into the pack,” Burma said. “All of us need to get more competitive and pace ourselves with the leaders.”

Allwardt commented on the upcoming meet, one that will provide the Bulldogs with a chance to start making gains on their conference competitors and to work on closing the gap between Sievert and the number two through number five runners.

“At our next meet we should compete for the win against top conference teams at Mount Marty,” Allwardt said. “We’ve had good success there recently, winning several times in the last few years. It should be a good tune up for the conference championships, where we’re shooting for a top finish. This meet will help the younger guys like Kohlton Gabehart get experience in a smaller field, where running well as a pack becomes extra important.”

The men will have two weeks prepare for the Mount Marty meet, which will be held in Yankton, S.D., on Oct. 25.

Sievert’s performance at NAIA Preview lands GPAC weekly honor

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the fifth time in his career (first this season), senior Ben Sievert has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week, as announced by the conference on Wednesday. The native of Frankenmuth, Mich., received the same honor twice as both a sophomore and junior as part of his standout career.

In his latest performance, Sievert placed sixth (first among GPAC runners) out of 300 competitors at the NAIA Preview Meet held at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., site of the upcoming national championships. The 2013 NAIA All-American’s time of 25:43.6 on the 8K Rim Rock Farm course represented a season best following times of 26:34 at the Woody Greeno Invite (Sept. 20) and 27:29 at the Roy Griak Invite (Sept. 27).

“Ben ran a great race. He really ran well,” Concordia head cross country coach Kregg Einspahr said after the meet. “He was in the top for the whole race against some great competition.”

Sievert’s effort helped the Bulldogs place 10th out of 31 teams in Lawrence. Out of the five GPAC men’s teams in attendance, Concordia finished behind only Dordt (ninth) and in front of Doane (12th), Midland (20th) and Hastings (30th).

At the 2013 NAIA Cross Country National Championships, Sievert claimed 19th place (out of 313) by clocking in at 25:02 on the same course in Lawrence.

Sievert and the Bulldogs return to action on Saturday, Oct. 25 when they run at the Mount Marty Invite in Yankton, S.D.

Cross country squads earn top-six finishes at Mount Marty Invite

By Taylor Muller, Athletic Communications Assistant

YANKTON, S.D. – Competing in the Mount Marty Invite in Yankton, S.D., the Bulldogs took advantage of the first relatively flat course of the season and made significant improvements. The weather conditions were nearly perfect as both teams got a taste of where they stood in the GPAC team filled meet.

After a disappointing 17th place finish two weeks ago in the NAIA Preview Meet, the women bounced back well with a solid fourth-place finish among 17 teams, knocking off GPAC rivals Hastings, Morningside, Northwestern, Mount Marty and Briar Cliff.

With a 17th-place overall finish, freshman Emily Sievert led the Bulldog pack with a time of 19:10.  Sophomore Jordyn Sturms placed second for the team in 19:40. Junior Megan Burma was next in 19:50 with junior Kim Wood and freshman Lauren Wilcox not far behind in 19:54 and 20:08 respectively.

“I thought they did much better today,” head coach Kregg Einspahr said of the women’s performance. “They made some good progress and are making some strides. I thought we had a good race today, I thought we competed well.”

Sturms shared similar insight, but also mentioning that while the team performed much better, there is still room for improvement.

“I think the team competed really well and did their best,” Strums said. “I think we still can improve as we get going. I think we need to work on working together during the race and even in practice and pushing each other to keep doing our best.”

Sturms explained the difference makers in her race, commenting on her mental attitude as well as the layout of the course.

“The course definitely helped being flatter,” Sturms said. “I talked to Megan before (the race) about running with her, and I think that really helped me a lot during the race to push myself. During practice, we’re competitive but still encouraging and that helps to improve.”

On the men’s side, it was senior Ben Sievert pacing the Bulldogs to a sixth-place team finish with his overall individual effort of eighth place in 25:46. Junior Jordan Potrzeba was next in line for Concordia, crossing the line in 26:35. Senior Josh Allwardt took third for the team in 26:58, while freshman Kohlton Gabehart and junior Taylor Mueller were on his heels in 27:00 and 27:01, respectively.

The Bulldogs cohesively put together their best team performance of the season thus far, however, they were outgunned by GPAC opponents Morningside, Northwestern and Dordt, teams that they will need to focus on when it comes time for the GPAC conference meet on Sept. 8 in Mitchell, S.D.

“We’re making progress on the guy’s side,” Einspahr said. “We got beat by a couple conference schools that we certainly want to beat. We got edged out by Dordt by three points and Northwestern by 27 so we have some work to do with that. I think we had a good race and we’re making some good progress.”

Despite the better team performance, Potrzeba acknowledged the areas that still need work for the men to top their GPAC competitors.

“I thought we ran fairly well,” Potrzeba said. “We got good position at the beginning. Unfortunately we just didn’t hold it in miles two, three and four, that’s kind of been our trouble. Overall, we ran pretty well. We never want to lose to a conference team by three points, but we’ll get there.”

“We just need to have confidence to hold our position in miles two, three and four,” Potrzeba said. “That’s where we’ve been losing a lot of ground. We just need to stay strong and just go with them. We tend to get passed in those miles and we just let them go. We need to run strong and we need to run as a pack.”

Now, with the regular season concluded, all eyes are on the GPAC meet, with NAIA qualifying implications on the line.

“The conference championship in just about every sport in the GPAC is just a war and track and cross country in particular since all the conference schools are all out in one place at the same time,” Einspahr said. “It’s a knock-down, drag-out fight. It comes down to the teams that are the most competitive and are best prepared on that day. A lot of that is coaching, some of that is grit by the athletes who come out with determination in terms of what they want to get accomplished.”

A first place finish at the conference meet will ensure a trip to Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., for the national meet. A top 25 ranking following the conference meet could potentially nudge the Bulldogs in, but nothing is guaranteed in that respect.

“I think we’re doing a lot of good things in terms of the early parts of the race,” Einspahr said. “We need to work on the middle and finish still, probably for both the programs. If we can make some progress in those areas I think we can have a good meet.”

“I’m excited for GPAC to see what we all can do,” Sturms said. “Hopefully we’ll all keep improving and have our best race in a couple weeks.”

PREVIEW: Cross country travels to Mitchell on Saturday for GPAC championships

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University cross country programs take on the most important competition of their seasons on Saturday. Dakota Wesleyan will serve as the host for the 2014 GPAC Cross Country Championships, which will be held at Wild Oak Private Golf Course in Mitchell, S.D. The women’s race gets underway at 11:15 a.m. with the men to follow at 12 p.m.

“The conference championship in just about every sport in the GPAC is just a war and track and cross country in particular since all the conference schools are all out in one place at the same time,” 23rd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “It’s a knock-down, drag-out fight. It comes down to the teams that are the most competitive and are best prepared on that day. A lot of that is coaching, some of that is grit by the athletes who come out with determination in terms of what they want to get accomplished.”

MEET INFO
Date: Saturday, Nov. 8
Time: women at 11:15 a.m.; men at 12 p.m.
Host: Dakota Wesleyan
Location: Wild Oak Private Golf Course
2500 East 1st Street, Mitchell, SD, 57301
Course description: Grass course with some gravel, rolling bunny hills
Parking: all vehicles on Quiett Lane

At the 2013 GPAC championships, hosted by Concordia, the Bulldog men placed third while the women finished fifth. In Einspahr’s first 22 seasons, he’s led the cross country programs to nine combined GPAC/NIAC team titles. His men’s and women’s teams have also totaled 18 combined runner-up conference finishes during that time. In addition, the last 22 years of Bulldog cross country have yielded 16 individual conference champions (10 men, six women).

This year’s Bulldog squads appear to be peaking at the appropriate time. Led by freshman Emily Sievert, the women earned a fourth-place finish out 17 teams in their most recent competition – the Mount Marty Invite on Oct. 25. Sievert placed 17th out of 192 runners with her time of 19:10.51. Sievert is the frontrunner for a young group that has steadily improved.

“I thought they had a much better race at the Mount Marty Invite,” Einspahr said. “It’s a young team that’s been trying to gain some confidence. I think they have some good abilities. It’s just a matter of taking what they’ve been able to do in practice and translating that to competition. They are certainly capable. It’s more of mental thing at this point.”

While this year’s team has gotten a boost from an infusion of youngsters, the Bulldogs return nine of the 10 runners who competed at the 2013 GPAC championships, including senior Renee Williams. She placed 15th last season to grab all-conference honors. Sievert and others such as Jordyn Sturms, Megan Burma and Kim Wood figure to be in contention for top-15 finishes on Saturday.

“Emily Sievert of course has been running well all season,” Einspahr said. “Megan Burma and Jordyn Sturms have been really coming around and improving every week. And you can never count Kim Wood out. She has tremendous potential.”

Ranked as high as 23rd nationally after a solid performance at the Woody Greeno Invite on Sept. 20, the Concordia women have a shot at a top-two team finish. Second-ranked Dordt has put together an impressive season and enters the race as a clear favorite.

The men also put together a solid effort at the Mount Marty Invite. Concordia has been paced all season by senior Ben Sievert, a 2013 NAIA All-American and three-time cross country all-conference performer. Sievert, who ran a time of 26:30 at last year’s GPAC meet, finished the flat Mount Marty course in 25:47. The Frankenmuth, Mich., native looks primed for another top-of-the-GPAC placement.

After taking things easy for a couple days last week to rest a banged up Achilles, Sievert is back to form.

“I think he’s feeling a lot better and ready to go,” Einspahr said. “He’s been running real well the past couple days. Obviously he’s one of the top runners in the conference. It will be great to see how he goes out in his last conference championship. He’s a senior so he’s looking to put together a real strong race.”

While there’s been a gap between Sievert and the team’s No. 2 runners this season, junior Jordan Potrzeba (2013 all-conference) and several others appear to possess the ability to place in all-conference territory. At Mount Marty, senior Josh Allwardt, freshman Kohlton Gabehart and junior Taylor Mueller rounded out the team’s top five.

“Jordan’s been improving all season long,” Einspahr said. “He’s looking to have his best race of the season. The rest of the team has been improving as well. Hopefully they can put together their best races of the season at the conference championship.”

The veteran head coach says the men can give themselves a good shot an at-large berth to the national championships by beating out No. 23 Northwestern and Dordt, which is receiving votes in the NAIA coaches’ poll.

Based on the national polls, the 12th-ranked Morningside men and the second-ranked Dordt women enter as favorites to defend their 2013 GPAC titles.

Last year’s third-place GPAC finish helped the Bulldog men earn an at-large bid to the 2013 national championships, where they placed 24th out of 32 teams. Since 1992, Einspahr has qualified at least one of his teams for the cross country national championships in every season.

Should the Concordia teams happen to fall short of reaching the national championships, there would remain an opportunity for several Bulldogs to qualify as individuals. In two appearances on the national stage, Ben Sievert has placed 19th (2013) and 51st (2012).

Official 2014 GPAC men’s ratings

*National rank in parentheses
1. Morningside (12)
2. Northwestern (23)
3. Dordt (RV)
4. Concordia (RV)
5. Doane
6. Midland
7. Hastings
8. Mount Marty
9. Briar Cliff
10. Dakota Wesleyan
--Nebraska Wesleyan not rated due to NCAA DIII affiliation

Official 2014 GPAC women’s ratings
*National rank in parentheses
1. Dordt (2)
2. Doane (RV)
3. Concordia
4. Hastings
5. Morningside
6. Northwestern
7. Mount Marty
8. Midland
9. Briar Cliff
10. Dakota Wesleyan
--Nebraska Wesleyan not rated due to NCAA DIII affiliation 

2013 GPAC championships results
*Returners in bold

MEN

  • Ben Sievert – 26:30 (3rd out of 95)
  • Hayden Hohnholt – 26:44 (6th)
  • Jordan Potrzeba – 26:57 (9th)
  • Beau Billings – 27:10 (15th)
  • Chris Shelton – 27:48 (30th)
  • Charlie Bloomfield – 27:54 (32nd)
  • Josh Allwardt – 27:59 (36th)
  • Taylor Mueller – 28:10 (43rd)
  • Creighton Pearse – 28:54 (58th)
  • Adam Prahlow – 30:03 (74th)

WOMEN

  • Renee Williams – 19:23 (15th out of 94)
  • Erika Schroeder – 20:14 (31st)
  • Jenean Williams – 20:18 (33rd)
  • Megan Burma – 20:21 (34th)
  • Kim Wood – 20:33 (40th)
  • Ashley Canfield – 20:35 (41st)
  • Haley Harpham – 20:42 (47th)
  • Michaela Curran – 20:55 (53rd)
  • Angie Steinbacher – 21:10 (57th)
  • Lauren Pankow – 22:11 (75th)

2014 GPAC runners of the week

MEN
Sept. 10 – Alec DeVries, Morningside
Sept. 17 – Skyler Giddings, Northwestern
Sept. 24 – Mark Abrams, Morningside
Oct. 1 – Danny Aldaba, Midland
Oct. 8 – No nominees
Oct. 15 – Ben Sievert, Concordia
Oct. 22 – No nominees
Oct. 29 – Danny Aldaba, Midland 
WOMEN
Sept. 10 – Nicole Slater, Dordt
Sept. 17 – Lauren Shomaker, Hastings
Sept. 24 – Gabi Jenkins, Nebraska Wesleyan
Oct. 1 – Marissa DeWispelare, Doane
Oct. 8 – Jordyn Hudelson, Mount Marty
Oct. 15 – Marissa DeWispelare, Doane
Oct. 22 – Gabi Jenkins, Nebraska Wesleyan
Oct. 29 – Kayla Byl, Dordt

Bulldog women place fourth, men fifth at GPAC championships

By Taylor Mueller, Athletic Communications Assistant

MITCHELL, S.D. – The cross country grind came to a close on Saturday, as both the men’s and women’s cross country squads competed in the season ending conference meet in Mitchell, S.D. The women finished fourth while the men placed fifth among the 11 GPAC institutions.

After an up and down season, the team was able to put together several strong performances and use a flat course to their advantage to put an exclamation point on their season.

“The women had their best race of the season, head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “They ran very well. We had a little bit of a gap between our four and five (runners). The top four runners really had great races today. I thought we had the firepower to finish in the top two, but we weren’t that far out of second, it was pretty close.”

Junior Kim Wood mustered up her best race of the season, placing 12th with all-conference honors, and crossing the line in 18:38.

“I was really happy with how I did,” Wood said. “I’ve been struggling this season, so to finally come out and have a race like this was a huge relief. I’m really happy, because putting in all those miles, it’s good to finally have a good race and see what I can do. At the same time it’s kind of disappointing to be a half second off of nationals, so mixed emotions, but just really happy with how I was able to get up and compete today.”

Einspahr was pleased to see one of his top runners return to form as well.

“Kim Wood came through with a very good race and did a great job,” Einspahr said. “Kim Wood has been practicing well and put it together here in the last race of the regular season. We’ll see if Kim gets a birth to the national championship.”

Filling in the rest of the top five was junior Megan Burma in 18:57, freshman Emily Sievert in 19:05, sophomore Jordyn Sturms 19:14 and senior Erika Schroeder 19:46.

Wood was proud of her team’s performance, and was glad that they were able to pull together one final time.

“I think we did really well as a team,” Wood said. “I know some people weren’t happy with how they did, but I guess that always happens at the end of the season. It’s hard to always end the way you want to. A lot of people (got personal records) and that was really exciting. I think we just went out and fought hard and that’s what we’ve needed. We didn’t always to that this season, so it was really nice to go out this way.”

“It’s a good feeling to have our best race of the season at the conference championship,” Einspahr said. “It’s a very young team. We’ll have the top four back. I thought we made some really good strides during the season and we’ve got a lot to look forward to down the road.”

On the men’s side, Senior Ben Sievert punched his ticket to the national meet for the fourth-consecutive time with his fourth place overall finish in 25:17.

“Ben had a very good race, Einspahr said. “He ran very smart and competed very well.”

In a close race that was highly competitive until the bitter end, Sievert commented on the excitement of the big race as well as the heightened intensity.

“It was a really fun race to run,” Sievert said. “There was a big pack up front for the whole race and that just made it really fun. There were a lot of guys jostling for the lead, taking the wind, kind of falling back a little bit but still holding onto the pack. It was just a real fun race from a runner’s standpoint and I’m sure from a spectator’s as well.”

“Going with about a mile left, there were still about ten guys up front who were in position to win it,” Sievert said. “It was pretty nerve racking too, being up front, because with the new changes to the automatic qualifying I was just like, ‘I need to stay in the top four, just go for the win and make sure that I was able to get that automatic qualifying time as well. I wasn’t able to win today which was a little bit of a bummer, but finishing fourth isn’t bad and I’m happy about it. I’ve just got to thank God for an awesome race today.”

Filling in behind their four-time all-conference captain was junior Jordan Potrzeba in 26:19, junior Taylor Mueller in 26:40, sophomore Chris Shelton in 26:48 and senior Josh Allwardt in 26:49.

“The guys ran about the way that we’ve been running all season,” Einspahr said. “We still had some pretty big gaps between our one and two and our two and three again. We didn’t put together the kind of race we had hoped to overall. Overall, I thought we had a pretty good race on the men’s side, but we’d like to finish a little bit better than we did. That’s something we’ll need to work on, and see if we can qualify for the national championships and compete for All-American honors again.”

Sievert added his own thoughts on the day’s turnout, as well as his emotions regarding his last race as a cross country runner at Concordia.

“Today didn’t quite go as we hoped,” Sievert said. “I think we were really hoping and thought we could finish second or third and so to finish fifth was a little bit of a disappointment. I know we’ve got some disappointed guys on the bus ride home right now. It’s been an awesome group of guys to run with and for some of my fellow seniors here, working with them for four years, they’ve just been awesome teammates and it just made the sport so much fun. They make coming to practice every day just a blast. While the season didn’t end like any of us were hoping, it’s been a really fun one and definitely something for the underclassmen to build on for next year.”

Sievert will look to end his story as a Bulldog with gusto, when he returns to Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan. to compete in the national meet. While he is looking forward to his final race, he admitted that he will need to be competitive and on top of his game.

“I’m really excited for nationals,” Sievert said. “Just to be able to make it for the fourth time is an awesome blessing. I would love to repeat as an All-American but it’s going to be tough. There’s a lot of new faces up front this year but that’s still going to be my goal. The Rim Rock course is really challenging. It’s a fun one to run on and it’s really scenic, it’s got some nice hills that make it a really fun course to run on.”

With the season now in the rearview mirror for a majority of the athletes, Einspahr talked about what made this season different, and tactical coaching decisions that he had to make.

“It was an interesting season,” Einspahr said. “We really worked to try and put together a good season for the men and women and I think we did that. It was a challenge to try and put the two teams together and get them trying to run well. I think they did a real good job of that and overall, had a real good season.”

Sievert officially named a national championships qualifier

NAIA release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the fourth time in his career, senior Ben Sievert is headed to the NAIA cross country national championships. The NAIA officially named Sievert an at-large individual qualifier on Monday. Sievert joins the 2014 men’s field of 36 teams and 76 individuals set to compete at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday, Nov. 22.

The native of Frankenmuth, Mich., receives the at-large selection thanks to his fourth-place finish at the GPAC championships in Mitchell, S.D., on Nov. 8. That finish gave Sievert his fourth-straight cross country all-conference honor. In his career, he’s never placed lower than sixth at a conference meet. Sievert crossed the finish line in sixth in 2012 when Concordia won the GPAC title behind conference runner of the year Colin Morrissey.

At last season’s national championships, the first-ever held at Rim Rock Farm, Sievert claimed 19th place and All-America honors by navigating the 8K course in a time of 25:02.13. In his two previous trips to the national meet (held in Vancouver, Wash.), Sievert placed 51st (25:38) in 2012 and 207th (26:36) in 2011.

In addition to earning four all-conference awards in cross country, Sievert has also been named GPAC runner of the week on five separate occasions. In addition, he has been a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete in cross country and track.

Sievert, Wood garner cross country all-conference recognition

SEWARD, Neb. – Thanks to top-15 conference finishes, senior Ben Sievert and junior Kim Wood were officially named to cross country all-conference teams, as announced by the GPAC on Tuesday. Sievert picked up his fourth-straight all-conference award while Wood earned her first such accolade.

Sievert, who placed fourth in a time of 25:17.69 at this year’s GPAC championships, has never placed lower than sixth at a conference meet: 2014 – fourth (25:17.6), 2013 – third (26:30.18), 2012 – sixth (25:24.77) and 2011 – fourth (26:17:04). Sievert crossed the finish line in sixth in 2012 when Concordia won the GPAC title behind conference runner of the year Colin Morrissey. The native of Frankenmuth, Mich., will now head to the national championships for the fourth time in his career.

Meanwhile, Wood improved mightily from her 40th-place GPAC finish as a sophomore. She moved all the way up to 12th this season by putting together her best race of 2014. She clocked in at 18:38.60 on the 5K course in Mitchell, S.D., just missing out on an at-large bid to the national championships.

Complete GPAC all-conference cross country teams can be viewed HERE.

Sievert has eye on top-15 national finish, Bulldog women’s soccer

SEWARD, Neb. – Roughly 52 miles will separate senior Ben Sievert and his fiancée Rachel Mussell as they both prepare to represent Concordia University at national championship events on Saturday. In Lawrence, Kan., Sievert will hit the Rim Rock Farm course at 11:45 a.m. for his fourth-straight cross country national championships appearance. About an hour north, Mussell and the Bulldog women’s soccer team will kick off the program’s first-ever national tournament appearance at 2 p.m.

If Sievert is to claim his second-consecutive All-America honor, excuse him if he rushes off the medal stand for an update on the soccer action in Atchison. Perhaps a big performance from Sievert will lead into an upset of No. 9 Benedictine College for Mussell and the 24th-ranked Bulldogs in the afternoon.

“It’s really exciting,” Sievert said. “I kept joking with her last week about how badly I didn’t want her to be able to make my national meet. Now that they are playing an hour from Lawrence, she is joking that she doesn’t want me to make it to her game because that would mean I have to be at the All-American awards presentation. It’s been a lot of fun for both of us and we are excited to cheer each other on this weekend from afar.”

The unique situation is one that neither Sievert nor Mussell is likely to forget. Imagine how special the day will be should both have the opportunity to celebrate successful national championship Saturdays.

“It's really cool to be in this situation and is something we have both been talking about since this summer,” Mussell said. “I know this summer when we were both training, we would joke about how we had to cheer each other on then because when we achieved our goals of going to nationals, we would be competing at the same time.

“I told him he had to be an All American so he couldn't come to my game. All jokes aside, it is so great to have him as a constant support and encouragement, and even though we can't always be there physically to cheer for each other, it's great knowing we are both out there competing and trying to achieve our goals.”

Like the women’s soccer team, Sievert appears to be performing at an optimal level at the right time. On Nov. 8 he placed fourth at the GPAC championships by finishing in a time of 25:17.69. For the fourth year in a row, the native of Frankenmuth, Mich., had claimed a top-six finish at the conference meet, giving him all-GPAC honors each season. During his impressive career at the conference level, Sievert also helped the 2012 Bulldogs to a GPAC title.

At the national championships (held in Vancouver, Wash., during Sievert’s first two seasons), the Concordia frontrunner has steadily improved. He went from 207th place (26:36) his freshman year to 51st (25:38) in 2012 and all the way up to 19th (25:02.13) last season as he earned his first cross country All-America honor.

Even with brutally cold temperatures nipping at his heels in recent weeks, Sievert has maintained a regimen that he believes will allow him a chance to reach his goal of a top-15 finish on Saturday.

“It’s been a very cold last couple of weeks,” Sievert said. “I haven’t been able to do any track workouts because of the snow, so I’ve done most of my workouts on the road which is a change. You basically just have to suck it up, bundle up and get out the door and run in conditions like these.

“In terms of training since GPAC, last week was more just longer, easy runs to kind of get my legs back under me after conference, and then later into the week I started doing some road workouts. At this point it’s all just about getting fresh and ready to run so you can compete well at nationals.”

The 2014 NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championships is comprised of 36 teams and 76 individuals set to run at Rim Rock Farm. It’s a course Sievert has competed at three prior times in his career. He hopes his final race there ends with another plaque. Only then can he turn his attention to the goings on in Atchison.

Sievert’s results at Rim Rock Farm
Oct. 12, 2013, NAIA Preview Meet – 13th out of 272 (25:28.65)
Nov. 23, 2013, NAIA National Championships – 19th out of 313 (25:02.13)
Oct. 11, 2014, NAIA Preview Meet – 6th out of 300 (25:43.6)

Sievert on the Rim Rock Farm course
I really like this Rim Rock Farm course. It is a really hilly course and I have always been a fan of hills. My high school course was one of the hilliest courses I’ve ever run, so mentally I have just always loved hilly courses and feel I can compete well on them. I also think that having the race in Kansas will help me over some of the coastal schools because I have more practice time in the snow/cold/windy conditions and those can really slow runners down if they aren’t used to it. Even though Saturday’s weather is supposed to warm up, I still think some of those runners might be at a little bit of a disadvantage. All in all, I really like the Rim Rock course and am looking forward to racing it one last time. 

On representing the Concordia cross country program
It’s a really big honor to be able to represent this program. Coach (Kregg) Einspahr has done such a fantastic job of not only building but also maintaining this program here, so to be able to carry that legacy on at nationals is really special and means a lot to me. I hope I am able to run and make everyone proud. I also know a lot of my teammates are going to come down and watch, which means a lot. I may be the only one at the starting line but I know I will have a lot of my teammates there with me.

How this year feels different than the previous three national championship trips
This year feels different for a couple reasons. First off, it’s my senior year and I can’t say I will have another chance anymore, so mentally I am just super excited to go out there and leave it all out on the course one last race. I’ve been running cross country for eight years now so it’s kind of bittersweet to have it come to a close, but I’m excited I get one last chance at nationals to go out and compete.

Sievert places 39th in final race on the national stage

By Taylor Mueller, Athletic Communications Assistant

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Sporting his blue and white uniform one last time, Ben Sievert’s storied cross country career came to a close at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., as he competed in his fourth-straight national cross country meet. Sievert finished in 39th place overall with a time of 25:43.

Heading into the race, Sievert knew he would have to make his move early.

“Coach and I kind of talked a little before the race and we knew I’d have to get in good position early and just stay relaxed and hold it,” Sievert said. “I wanted to get in the top 20 to top 30 in the first mile, and then after the two-mile mark when it starts getting hillier is when I have to start moving. I probably didn’t move up in the race as much as I should have, and at the end, I was just trying to gut it out as much as I could.”

Sievert moved into 28th place with just 400 meters left in the race, but “didn’t have a lot left” as he slipped out of his All-American placing, which is awarded to the top 30 finishers.

“He had everything he needed,” head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “He got himself in good position, held the same place in the race and moved up in the last mile, but he just wasn’t able to hold on.”

Despite narrowly missing All-American status, Sievert remained humble and thankful for the opportunity that he had to make it to the national meet.

“I’m happy with it,” Sievert said of his final collegiate race. “I gave it my all today. It was disappointing to not be an All-American, but it was a blessing just to be here and to be running in this race.”

As Sievert moves on from Concordia cross country, he will not be easily forgotten by his coach and teammates.

“He had a great race, a great season and a great career,” Einspahr said. “He’s a model citizen, and I think the world of him. He is a great leader, a great teammate and we’re going to miss him. He’s been the heart and soul if this team. He brings the level of everybody up around him. I’m really going to miss him and I have been very fortunate to coach him.”

With his race and cross country career now in the rearview mirror, Sievert admitted that it will not likely sink in for a while that his cross country days are over.

“It’s hard to believe that after eight years of running, that I’m done,” Sievert said. “I’ll get four days off from running and then I’ll start getting ready for the indoor season. It’s hard to take a step back and realize that I’m done.”

As for the impact that he had on the Bulldog cross country program, Sievert explained what he hoped his teammates have taken away from his career.

“I don’t really care if they remember me for my running, my achievements or how I did in races,” Sievert said. “I just hope that my team saw me for working hard every day in practice and that I was running for God.”

Last season Sievert placed 19th at nationals in earning All-America honors as a junior. He also finished 51st as a sophomore and 207th as a freshman.

Cross country lands 12 runners on scholar-athlete list

View complete list of men’s honorees
View complete list of women’s honorees

SEWARD, Neb. – For the third-consecutive year, exactly 12 Bulldog cross country runners have earned Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete accolades, as announced by the NAIA on Monday. Repeat honorees include seniors Josh Allwardt, Andrew Malan, Casey Roberts, Ben Sievert, Tim von Behren and Renee Williams.

In order to be nominated by an institution's head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status to qualify for this honor.

With seven scholar-athletes, the Concordia men’s cross country team came in just one shy of the national leader, Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.).

Concordia University ranks as the NAIA’s all-time leader in number of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes with 1,032 and counting. During the 2013-14 academic year, Concordia garnered 101 Scholar-Athlete honorees (most in the NAIA) and 17 NAIA Scholar-Teams (tied for fourth nationally).

Concordia University, Nebraska, founded in 1894, is a fully accredited, coeducational university located in Seward, Neb., that currently serves over 2,200 students. Concordia offers more than 50 professional and liberal arts programs in an excellent academic and Christ-centered community that equips men and women for lives of learning, service and leadership in the church and world.

2014 Concordia men’s cross country Scholar-Athletes:
Josh Allwardt, Sr. (Frederick, Md.)
Andrew Malan, Sr. (Lincoln, Neb.)
Ben Montgomery, Jr. (North Platte, Neb.)
Taylor Mueller, Jr. (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Casey Roberts, Sr. (Wamego, Kan.)
Ben Sievert, Sr. (Frankenmuth, Mich.)
Tim von Behren, Sr. (Elk Creek, Neb.)

2014 Concordia women’s cross country Scholar-Athletes:
Michaela Curran, Jr. (Wahoo, Neb.)
Shelby Hohnholt, Sr. (Saratoga, Wyo.)
Lauren Pankow, Jr. (Milwaukee, Wis.)
Renee Williams, Sr. (Lincoln, Neb.)
Kim Wood, Jr. (Greeley, Neb.)