GPAC Championships culminate with placements of fourth (women) and sixth (men)

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 7, 2020 in Cross Country

YANKTON, S.D. – The Concordia University Cross Country squads began the day with hopes of earning top-three conference finishes. When the dust settled, the Bulldogs landed at fourth on the women’s side and sixth on the men’s side while competing in the 2020 GPAC Cross Country Championships. Mount Marty hosted the meet at Fox Run Golf Course in Yankton, S.D., on Saturday (Nov. 7).

Head Coach Matt Beisel’s women’s program captured the 2019 GPAC title and entered the weekend ranked 22nd nationally. Meanwhile, the men’s team is receiving votes in the national poll. The place finishes turned in on Saturday puts Concordia outside of NAIA national meet contention.

The results were disappointing, but Beisel has been pleased with the work ethic from his student-athletes this fall. Wrote Beisel, “Every one of these awesome kids ran their hearts out, and I’m so proud of them. Today God did not answer our prayers with a ‘yes’ regarding team placings, but in every ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ are lessons to be learned, and an opportunity to trust no matter the circumstances. Congrats to the other GPAC teams – they did well. Now is a time to reflect and rest.”

It was another solid campaign for the Bulldog women’s program, which had placed third or better at each of its regular-season meets. Unsurprisingly, sophomore Kylahn Heritage led the way for Concordia in Yankton. She paced a tightly-bunched group of Bulldogs with a 17th-place (20:00.14) individual finish (out of 94 runners in the 5k race). As a freshman in 2019, Heritage placed as the GPAC runner up and just missed out on All-America honors.

Four additional Bulldogs placed in the top 25 of the conference: senior Sydney Clark (20:03.86; 18th), senior Lydia Cook (20:06.21; 20th), senior Alyssa Fye (20:14.27; 23rd) and freshman Rylee Haecker (20:25.86; 25th). Heritage, Clark and Fye each garnered all-conference honors last season. A top-15 finish is required in order to be named to the All-GPAC team. The cutoff this year to place in the top 15 was a time of 19:47.58.

“We’ve had some really good things happen over the last two years,” Beisel said. “We know that winning a championship and making it to nationals is nothing to take for granted. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I saw every kid pushing it to the limit. We just got outran today.”

On the men’s side, Concordia knew that standouts in sophomore Camden Sesna and junior Wyatt Lehr would have to gut this one out while competing through injury. Lehr is a two-time All-GPAC runner. This time around, Lehr finished seventh on the team and 46th overall in a field of 86 competitors in the 8k race. The top six for the Bulldogs were: sophomore Antonio Blaine (28:12.35; 30th), freshman Calvin Rohde (28:18.68; 31st), senior Jordan Lorenz (28:27.93; 33rd), sophomore Owen Dawson (29:02.51; 39th), Sesna (29:02.61; 40th) and junior Ethan Pankow (29:06.15; 42nd).

Perhaps next season will be the breakthrough for the men’s program on the conference stage. Highlights this season included a meet title at the Hastings Bronco Stampede and recognition in the national poll. Before being nagged by injury late in the fall, Sesna appeared on his way to earning All-GPAC honors.

“We had a great start to the season and Camden was running exceptionally well,” Beisel said. “Both Camden and Wyatt had to take time off from training. With Camden, it hurt the whole time today and he wasn’t able to be where he has been all season. Our guys ended up not where we wanted to be, but I’m proud of them for all the work they’ve put into it.”

The Concordia women (102 points) placed behind Dordt (27), Morningside (94) and Northwestern (95). The top five finishers on the men’s side were Dordt (34), Northwestern (55), Doane (77), Midland (133) and Morningside (145).

For the seniors, their collegiate cross country careers have come to an end (unless they use additional eligibility granted by the NAIA). Beisel and the distance crew will now turn their attention towards indoor track season. Concordia is set to host the Bulldog Early Bird Meet Dec. 4-5.

Said Beisel of the seniors, “They were my first recruiting class here at Concordia. It has been a blessing for me to be able to work with them for four years. We have track and field in front of us so it’s not all over, but cross country is something special. These guys and girls made it even more special. They’ve been huge leaders to our team and we’re going to miss them. I wish it had ended on a higher note, but if it was easy everybody would be able to be successful. That’s not the way it is, especially in the GPAC.”

GPAC Results

Women – 5k
17. Kylahn Heritage – 20:00.14
18. Sydney Clark – 20:03.86
20. Lydia Cook – 20:06.21
23. Alyssa Fye – 20:14.27
25. Rylee Haecker – 20:25.86
38. Amie Martin – 20:54.95
40. Alyssa Bierwagen – 21:00.92
46. Keri Bauer – 21:28.77
49. Abi DeLoach – 21:38.77
71. Grace Reiman – 23:12.86

Men – 8k
30. Antonio Blaine – 28:12.35
31. Calvin Rohde – 28:18.68
33. Jordan Lorenz – 28:27.93
39. Owen Dawson – 29:02.51
40. Camden Sesna – 29:02.61
42. Ethan Pankow – 29:06.15
46. Wyatt Lehr – 29:27.89
51. Nick Zadar – 29:41.07
55. Ethan Ideus – 30:13.54
62. Ethan Hensley – 30:39.66