Freiberg's All-America performance leads Bulldogs to 18th-place national finish

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 17, 2023 in Cross Country

VANCOUVER, Wash. – It was quite a way for fifth-year Bulldog Kylahn Freiberg to cap her collegiate cross country career. The Nampa, Idaho, native came close to a 6k personal best while earning All-America honors at the 2023 NAIA Cross Country National Championships held at Fort Vancouver National Historic Championship Course in Vancouver, Wash., on Friday (Nov. 17). Freiberg’s performance helped the Concordia women’s team place 18th nationally with a total of 459. On the men’s side, Calvin Rohde represented the Bulldogs as an individual qualifier and placed just outside the top 100 in the final race of his cross country career.

Head Coach Matt Beisel took the women’s program to the national meet for the third time in his tenure and for the second year in a row. Concordia improved upon its placement of 27th from a year ago in Tallahassee, Fla.

“Kylahn had an absolutely outstanding career here at Concordia,” Beisel said. “It’s not been a straightforward path. She’s had some ups and downs with health and other things, but she continued to put a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice into her effort. I think she was very dialed in this whole season and it paid off with an All-American finish. It’s something she’s been wanting for years, and she ran great. I’m super proud of her and very thankful I’ve gotten to coach her these years.

“The women’s team was hoping for much better. We had some really good races, but Keeli (Green) wasn’t feeling good and that has an impact. Julie (McIntyre) went out a little too fast and it caught here at the end. She still ended up placing in the top 60. She wanted All-American and came up a little short, but it was still a great effort from her. Hannah (Beintema), Keegan (Beisel) and Rylee (Haecker) all had gutsy performances. They were all moving up towards the end of the race and helped us to get the 18th position. Alayna had an injury that kept her from running her best, yet I was really proud of her for gritting it out. Keeli was also having a tough time, but I’m immensely proud of what she accomplished this season. Whatever the outcome, we give glory to God.”

Concordia Results – 2023 NAIA Cross Country National Championships

Women (6k – 334 runners):
16. Kylahn Freiberg – 22:07.7
57. Julie McIntyre – 23:06.5
158. Hannah Beintema – 24:09.6
177. Keeli Green – 24:19.3
200. Keegan Beisel – 24:28.6
206. Rylee Haecker – 24:31.5
304. Alayna Vargas – 26:33.3

Men (8k – 331 runners):
103. Calvin Rohde – 26:18.0

As a program, the Bulldog women have placed in the top 20 of the NAIA 19 times since 1994. As for Freiberg, she became the program’s first All-American since Sarah Kortze last accomplished that feat in 2012 (14th place). This was Freiberg’s third career appearance at cross country nationals after having placed 33rd in 2019 and 69th in 2022. This time around, Freiberg finished the 6k in 22:07.7 (just off her 6k PR of 21:40.12) and easily met the requirement of a top-40 placement for All-America status. Freiberg’s 2023 campaign also included a seventh-place conference finish two weeks ago.

It was also a strong final race for Chicago native Julie McIntyre as she crossed the finish line in 23:06.5 and placed 57th in the field of 334 runners. She missed a top-40 All-America finish by roughly 26 seconds. Three other Bulldogs finished within the top 200 overall: sophomore Hannah Beintema (24:09.6; 158th), freshman Keeli Green (24:19.3; 177th) and sophomore Keegan Beisel (24:28.6; 200th). Next in line were senior Rylee Haecker (24:31.5; 206th) and freshman Alayna Vargas (26:33.3; 304th). Senior Rhaya Kaschinske also accompanied the team to Vancouver as an alternate.

Ranked as high as No. 6 in the NAIA this fall, the Concordia women entered Friday’s meet believing themselves capable of a top-10 finish. While they fell short of that lofty aspiration, the Bulldogs earned their second best national finish since Beisel became head coach in 2016. Beisel’s 2019 GPAC championship squad placed 12th nationally while also competing in Vancouver.

The Reed City, Mich., native Rohde made his second career cross country nationals appearance and placed 103rd out of 331 runners in the men’s field. Rohde finished the 8k course in 26:18.0 (as compared to the 25:14.1 he ran at the GPAC Championships on a fast course). Rohde sat in 55th place halfway through Friday’s race before ultimately placing just outside the top 100. It was a significant improvement from Rohde’s 2021 nationals appearance when he placed 209th.

“Calvin went out and ran the best race he possibly could,” Beisel said. “He got out strong and relaxed the first 2,000 meters. The toll of the hilly, slippery course caught up with him and he wasn’t able to maintain that position. Finishing in 103rd is a tough thing to do at this level. I was very proud of his efforts as well. It’s another God thing where we’re thankful we had the season we had and got to spend this time together.”

Concordia’s national qualifiers will take some more time to soak up the scenery in Washington before heading back to Nebraska. This was the swan song for Freiberg and three other seniors. Beisel made special mention of each of them following the championship meet.

Said Beisel, “We had four seniors run today and end their cross country careers: Kylahn, Julie, Rylee and Calvin. I’m so very proud of all of them. They have contributed in so many ways to the cross country team. I’m going to miss them terribly next year. I’m very thankful I got to be their coach in this awesome sport.”