Concordia women claim second, men third at 2023 GPAC Championships

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 4, 2023 in Cross Country

NORTH SIOUX CITY, S.D. – All roads led to North Sioux City for GPAC cross country. In strong showings for both squads, Concordia University Cross Country placed its men and women inside the top three of the conference for the second year in a row. When the dust settled on Saturday (Nov. 4) morning at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Concordia claimed second place on the women’s side (42 points) and third place on the men’s side (95 points).

Head Coach Matt Beisel’s program came away with five total All-GPAC awards, which are handed out to the top 15 individual finishers for both men and women. Accolades were earned on the women’s side by Julie McIntyre, Keeli Green, Kylahn Freiberg and Hannah Beintema and on the men’s side by Calvin Rohde.

Ranked sixth in the NAIA entering the meet, the Bulldog women will be making plans to head to the national championships with a team berth. Meanwhile, Rohde has unofficially qualified for nationals individually.

“Our theme all year has been, ‘be where your feet are,’” Beisel said. “Let’s take it a day at a time, let’s focus on each other and focus on God. It’s worked really well. We all went into the meet with a healthy amount of nerves and also a sense of calm that we were ready. Both teams went out and ran great. I’m very thankful to God.”

Women’s Recap

Concordia Results (6k):
2. Julie McIntyre – 21:35.0
3. Keeli Green – 21:57.7
7. Kylahn Freiberg – 22:14.2
13. Hannah Beintema – 22:32.4
17. Keegan Beisel – 22:35.2
23. Rylee Haecker – 23:02.4
28. Alayna Vargas – 23:29.9

Concordia knew it would be in a close battle with No. 8 Dordt for the GPAC championship. In the end, the Defenders posted a point total of 28 and took home the team title behind individual champion Jessica Kampman. It took a huge effort for Dordt to come out on top as three Bulldogs placed inside the top seven and four received all-conference medals. For the second meet in a row, senior Julie McIntyre set the pace for the Bulldogs.

“Our women really wanted to try to pull off another conference championship,” Beisel said. “We gave it everything we had. Some really good things happened. It wasn’t a perfect race, but we did what we needed to do to get to nationals. We were only 14 points behind Dordt. Julie went out strong and that was huge for her to be runner up her senior year. It was an all-time personal best by about 30 seconds.

“When we get to nationals, I think we can run an even better team race. It will be a completely different situation with a lot of numbers and depth. With our three frontrunners and our other two not far behind, that’s going to play well in a big field like it did at the Blazing Tiger. I’m excited about what’s to come.”

McIntyre’s personal best 6k time came in at 21:35.0, roughly 15 seconds behind Kampman. The Chicago native moved up from her 14th place GPAC claim from 2022. Next in line for Concordia came freshman Keeli Green (21:57.7; third), Kylahn Freiberg (22:14.2; seventh) and Hannah Beintema (22:32.4; 13th). Despite a stomach bug, Freiberg held it together enough to earn the third All-GPAC cross country award of her career. Green and Beintema are first time All-GPAC honorees. This was a major breakthrough for the Bettendorf, Iowa, native Beintema, who put forth a significant personal best.

In the team’s No. 5 spot, Keegan Beisel narrowly missed out on all-conference honors with her 6k of 22:35.2. The rest of the top seven featured senior Rylee Haecker (23:02.4; 23rd) and freshman Alayna Vargas (23:29.9; 28th). Haecker owns two career All-GPAC awards.

The team’s top 10 was rounded out by Rhaya Kaschinske (23:36.2; 29th), Jaiden Tweton (24:56.2; 63rd) and Claire Beikmann (25:38.6; 79th). There were 103 total runners in the field at the GPAC meet.

The runner-up finish was the best for the women’s program at the GPAC meet since it celebrated a conference championship in 2019. Concordia has placed second or better in the GPAC 13 times since the conference’s first season in 2000.

Men’s Recap

Concordia Results (8k):
6. Calvin Rohde – 25:14.09
16. Trey Robertson – 25:46.71
23. Jack Ellis – 26:06.55
26. Westley Determan – 26:19.55
32. Aidan Limback – 26:37.51
36. Adric Schmitz – 26:45.97
37. Trevor Kuncl – 26:46.8
37. Nathan Pennekamp – 26:47.31

The Bulldogs put together their best overall race of the season from a time standpoint as they placed behind only Dordt (23) and Doane (50) at the top of the conference. Concordia has clearly established itself as one of the league’s top programs after having placed second in the GPAC in 2022. Reed City, Mich., native Calvin Rohde will be headed back to the national meet thanks to his sixth-place individual finish.

“We knew we had to put together our best race of the season,” Beisel said. “Aaron Jendro is out with an injury, but he came and cheered us on. Calvin went out and ran what he needed to. He ran a season best and placed sixth overall. Trey Robertson finished one place out of all-conference and just missed qualifying for nationals. It would have been really cool for a freshman, but it’s hard to do. Then we had Jack Ellis run the race of his life with a big PR and Aidan Limback has really come on strong. Our top seven did really well. We had our best team time of the year. The question is whether we’ll get some top 25 votes and an at-large bit. It’s possible.”

Rohde turned in the highest GPAC finish of his career after having placed 10th in 2021 and 14th in 2022 at the conference championships. He nailed down his third career All-GPAC award while pacing the 8k course in 25:14.09. As mentioned by Beisel, Robertson came up just shy of all-conference territory while running 25:46.71. He was followed in the team’s top five by Jack Ellis (26:06.55; 23rd), Westley Determan (26:19.55; 26th) and Aidan Limback (26:37.51; 32nd). All three saved their best for the conference meet.

Next up in the team’s top seven was Adric Schmitz (26:45.97; 36th) and Trevor Kuncl (26:46.8; 37th). The Bulldogs were also represented by Nathan Pennekamp (26:47.31; 37th), Thomas Gorline (26:59.9; 42nd) and Charlie Hayden (27:57.2; 64th). The conference field included 93 men’s runners.

NAIA National Championships

The final event on the schedule will be the 2023 NAIA Cross Country National Championships slated for Friday, Nov. 17. Official qualifiers will be announced next week by the NAIA. The women’s program will make its third team appearance on the national stage during Beisel’s tenure.