Concordia men, women defeat GPAC/NAIA competition at Briar Cliff Invite

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 1, 2021 in Cross Country

NORTH SIOUX CITY, S.D. – In a return to the same location of their most recent meet, the Concordia University Cross Country programs built upon a strong month of September. Both the Bulldog men and women beat out all GPAC and NAIA competition at the Briar Cliff Invitational held at Adams Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, S.D., on a muddy Friday (Oct. 1). Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads turned in place finishes of second (out of 12) on the men’s side and fourth (out of 11) on the women’s side.

With strong showings at the Augustana Twilight (Sept. 3) and the Morningside Invitational (Sept. 17), Beisel’s teams had already vaulted up the official GPAC ratings. The women’s team is currently ranked 15th in the NAIA coaches’ poll. Friday’s results provided further validation of the improvement of Concordia Cross Country in 2021.

“We have been working intensely and a lot of our kids have been feeling the fatigue from high volume training,” Beisel said. “We are transitioning into a different phase of training. Three weeks from now when we run at Mount Marty, I think everyone’s going to be feeling a lot better. At the same time, we still accomplished our goals and still have quite few individual personal bests. The humidity today was surprising when it was supposed to be around 70 and cloudy. It definitely affected the five-mile race for the guys.

“We ran really competitively and had guys running close to their PR’s from two weeks ago. The most important performance goal for us was to be the top NAIA team for both men and women, and we did that. The big picture is not for us to peak right now. We have three weeks until our next meet. We’re going to be primed and ready to go.”


Camden Sesna and the men’s team placed as the Briar Cliff Invite runner up behind only NCAA Division I University of South Dakota. Notably, the Bulldogs (93 points) placed above NCAA Division II University of Nebraska-Kearney (fifth) as well as GPAC foes Morningside (seventh), Mount Marty (ninth) and host Briar Cliff (11th). In previous outings this season, the Concordia men finished 12th (out of 31) at the Augustana Twilight and first (out of seven) at the Morningside Invite.

The Briar Cliff Invite featured a total of 133 runners in the men’s 8k race. This marked the third-straight meet to open this season that Sesna has emerged as the top Dawg. His time of 26:03.30 on Friday was just a bit behind his personal best from two weeks ago. Sesna outpaced all GPAC and NAIA foes while also outkicking many NCAA Division I competitors. Once again, Calvin Rohde (26:12.11) was next in line behind Sesna. The team’s top five was rounded out by three rookies in Sam Plante (27:39.29), Charlie Hayden (27:40.75) and Jack Ellis (27:53.38). See the team’s complete top 10 below.

Sesna continues to establish himself as one of the GPAC’s top runners. He was named the GPAC Runner of the Week on Sept. 22. The following runners have placed inside the team’s top 10 in both trips to North Sioux City: Owen Dawson, Jack Ellis, Charlie Hayden, Ethan Pankow, Nathan Pennekamp, Rhode and Sesna.

Concordia men’s top 10 place finishers (8k):
9. Camden Sesna – 26:03.30
14. Calvin Rohde – 26:31.43
35. Sam Plante – 27:39.29
37. Charlie Hayden – 27:40.75
41. Jack Ellis – 27:53.38
46. Nathan Pennekamp – 27:58.18
48. Thomas Gorline – 27:58.81
55. Wyatt Lehr – 28:41.80
59. Ethan Pankow – 28:54.47
63. Owen Dawson – 28:59.16


Lead runner Rylee Haecker and the nationally ranked women (128 points) finished behind only the likes of two NCAA Division I teams, University of South Dakota (first) and South Dakota State University (third), and one NCAA Division II foe, University of Nebraska-Kearney (second). Once again, the Bulldogs handled their GPAC competition, outrunning Morningside (fifth), Northwestern (sixth) and Mount Marty (10th). In the first two meets prior to Friday, Concordia placed eighth (out of 27) at the Augustana Twilight and first (out of five) at the Morningside Invite.

The Briar Cliff Invite featured a total of 130 runners in the women’s 5k race (one turn adjustment was made to the course compared to two weeks ago). Haecker rose to the head of the pack for the Bulldog by clocking in at 18:54.31, more than 30 seconds faster than her mark two weeks earlier. The team’s top runner at the first two meets, Reiman checked in next in line by running 19:06.22. A freshman from Perryville, Mo., Courtney Wright made a big jump forward in placing third on the team while shaving nearly a minute off her previous appearance at Adams Nature Preserve. Wright was one of five rookies in Concordia’s top 10 on Friday (see full top 10 below).

Haecker placed third among GPAC runners at the meet. She led a group of 20 Bulldogs in North Sioux City. The following Concordia competitors ran within the team’s top 10 in both trips to Adams Nature Preserve: Keri Bauer, Haecker, Rhaya Kaschinske, Amie Martin, Reiman, Kaia Richmond and Wright.

Concordia women’s top 10 place finishers (5k):
20. Rylee Haecker – 18:54.31
26. Grace Reiman – 19:06.22
33. Courtney Wright – 19:22.12
35. Amie Martin – 19:30.94
37. Keri Bauer – 19:36.08
39. Rhaya Kaschinske – 19:37.89
45. Kaia Richmond – 19:59.54
74. Abi DeLoach – 21:12.50
80. Faith Williamson – 21:28.43
86. Lauren Dawson – 21:43.08

NEXT UP: The Bulldogs will wait until Saturday, Oct. 23 to return to action at the Mount Marty Invite at Fox Run Golf Course in Yankton, S.D. The meet will serve as the final outing prior to the GPAC Championships (Nov. 6). In the most recent GPAC ratings, the women were No. 1 while the men landed at No. 3.

Said Beisel, “We ran exactly where I wanted them to be at this time of the season. Overall, they can be super proud of how they did. We have better things to come.”