SEWARD, Neb. – The field for the 2019 NAIA Cross Country National Championships is set. There was no suspense involved for the Concordia University women’s cross country team, which locked in a team berth to the national meet by way of winning the GPAC title this past Saturday. The Bulldog women’s program will make its first team appearance on the national stage since 2011 when they placed 17th in the NAIA.
As announced on Tuesday (Nov. 12) by the NAIA, the national qualifying women’s field includes a total of 37 teams and an additional 89 individuals. The national qualifiers will pace the 5k course at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash., on Friday, Nov. 22.
It’s been quite a breakthrough for head coach Matt Beisel’s squad, which placed fourth in the GPAC a year ago. The accomplishments may just be beginning to sink in for members of the team. Said top runner Kylahn Heritage after the GPAC Championships, “The whole thing is just really surreal to me, and I still haven’t fully processed it. It has all happened so fast. It felt really good seeing the camaraderie at the end.”
Beisel will travel eight runners (including one alternate) to the event in Washington. From an individual perspective, Heritage and her teammates will aim to give the program its first All-American since Sarah Kortze in 2012. While Concordia had not qualified a women’s team for cross country nationals since 2011, it did send at least one individual each year from 2015 through 2018 (Emily Deschaine/Kim Wood in 2015, Deschaine in 2016 and 2017 and Taylor Grove in 2018).
Heritage (second place) was joined by three teammates with All-GPAC accolades last week: Alyssa Fye (fourth), Rebekah Hinrichs (fifth) and Sydney Clark (12th). The 2019 Bulldogs earned three GPAC runner of the week awards, won three meets (Dean White Invite, Mount Marty Invite, GPAC Championships) and reached as high as 17th in the NAIA national poll.
Historically, Concordia women’s cross country has risen to great heights. Previous head coach Kregg Einspahr led the program to five conference championships, three NAIA national runner-up claims and 17 top 20 national finishes.
For more details on the NAIA Cross Country National Championships, visit the NAIA website HERE.