By Taylor Muller, Athletic Communications Student Assistant
McCOOK LAKE, S.D – A flat and fast course along with strong competition from numerous rival GPAC schools provided an excellent opportunity for the Concordia Bulldogs to take another positive step forward on Saturday as they competed in the Briar Cliff University Invitational at McCook Lake, S.D. The Concordia women placed fifth out of 15 teams while the men finished eighth amongst a field of 16 squads.
Just five points behind Doane, the 20th-ranked Bulldog women were paced by a strong front-running trio of senior Kim Wood (12th, 18:11) and sophomores Emily Sievert (13th, 18:12) and Jordyn Sturms (15th, 18:14). Sophomore Beth Rasmussen was next in 19:10, followed closely by senior Megan Burma in 19:18.
“We had some bright spots, our top three gals ran very well,” head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “They did a nice job of working together in the last mile. Kim Wood got out well and Emily Sievert and Jordyn Sturms ran right behind her and then they kind of grouped up with a mile to go and did a nice job of running together that last mile. Those three gals make a pretty tough trio and give us nice firepower up front.”
With a strong front-running core that has been solidly consistent all season long, Einspahr emphasized the need for closure between the fourth through eight place runners.
“We have a big gap between number three and four, five and six so that group really needs to close that gap up and do a better job of finishing the last mile,” Einspahr said. “We got passed in some of those spots in the last half mile. If we’re going to be a good team we need to finish the race off better.”
The Briar Cliff Invitational was the first 5,000 meter race of the season for the women. Though 5,000 meters is typical, the difference in distance was another quirk for the Bulldogs to adapt to.
“We’re adjusting a little bit to the 5k race now so it’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve to adjust back to the race and finishing a little quicker than what we’ve experienced the last couple outings,” Einspahr said. “We had a good outing. We had some big improvements. Kelsey Crymble had a really fine race today. She’s coming around and should develop into a real good runner down the road. I thought it was a good race but we want to continue to improve and finish better in the races coming up.”
The men’s squad took positive strides of their own, improving yet again on their performance from two weeks ago.
Senior Jordan Potrzeba adjusted his racing strategy, beginning with a solid first mile that earned him solid position early in the race. Though the difference was slight, it paid dividends for the senior out of Hastings, Neb., who raced to a 13th place finish in 25:57.
“Jordan Potrzeba did a good job running as a number one runner for us today,” Einspahr said. “He got out well and held that place, in fact he moved up the last two miles.”
Senior Taylor Mueller was next for the Bulldogs in 26:47. Sophomore Kholton Gabehart placed third for the Bulldogs in 27:11. Freshman Thomas Taylor was on his heels in 27:17 and junior Chris Shelton rounded out the top five in 27:27.
“We had some improvements really up and down the board,” Einspahr said. “It was an easier course and that may have just helped. Some of our runners are on the younger side yet so this course may have been in their favor.”
As the season progresses towards the homestretch, Einsphar expressed his pleasure in the positive steps his men’s squad has taken, yet explained that there is yet work to be done.
“We had some good improvements,” Einspahr said. “Chris Shelton ran a better race. I continue to be pleased with Thomas Taylor and Evan Asche who are freshmen. Taylor Mueller had a better race today and ran tougher in the middle of the race. We had some good things happen today. We’ve improved each race since the start of the season on the men’s side and that’s good to see. We have some things to work on, but overall it was a good day for us.”