NORTH BEND, Neb. – The Concordia University cross country teams continue creep up on the top teams in the conference. Led by senior Taylor Grove and freshman Wyatt Lehr, the Bulldogs placed fourth for both men and women at the GPAC cross country championships on Saturday morning (Nov. 3). Those finishes represent improvement from a year ago when the women finished fifth and the men sixth at the conference championships.
With 107 points, head coach Matt Beisel’s men were only two points off of third-place Doane. Meanwhile, the women checked in with 88 points (19 behind third-place Northwestern).
“I feel really good about what we did today,” Beisel said. “I’m very happy that we have shown progress over the last two years. We had some people run amazing races. Wyatt had a 20 second PR and made all-conference as a freshman, which is a really big deal. Overall it was a successful meet for our guys. They were grouped more closely together, which is something we were working on.
“On the girls’ side, we’ve been ranked fourth in the GPAC all season. We still have some work to do to bring our fifth, sixth and seventh up with our top four and that’s going to have to happen next year. The girls really ran well to get three in the top 15 and four in the top 20. Getting three girls on the podium was really exciting.”
A senior Billings, Mont., Grove has developed into a true distance star for the Bulldogs. A 2018 GPAC outdoor track champion in the 10,000 meters, Grove placed fourth out of the field of 103 conference competitors on Saturday. Amidst favorable running conditions at North Bend Golf Course in North Bend, Neb., Grove paced the 5k course in 18:53.54.
In the process, Grove earned All-GPAC honors for the first time and also earned her first-ever berth to the cross country national championships with an individual berth. Said Beisel, “Getting Taylor to nationals is a dream she’s been chasing. It’s exciting to be able to say that we’re going.”
Junior Rebekah Hinrichs (13th) and freshman Abi DeLoach (14th) also turned in top 15 finishes required for all-conference accolades. Hinrichs completed the race in 19:34.13 while DeLoach finished just behind in 19:36.99. Hinrichs and DeLoach may also join Grove at nationals, but will have to wait out the announcement from the NAIA.
The rest of the top seven for the women included junior Hannah Rebmann (19:47.18; 20th), sophomores Lydia Cook (20:29.31; 38th), Alyssa Fye (20:30.90; 39th) and Alyssa Bierwagen (20:39.41; 42nd). Grove and Jacy Johnston were the lone seniors to make up the women’s GPAC championship lineup.
On the men’s side, Lehr came up with a huge performance in his first taste of the conference championships. He placed 12th out of 92 competitors while running an 8k time of 26:38.73. Not far off of all-conference honors were seniors Thomas Taylor (26:52.47; 16th) and Josiah McAllister (27:04.77; 19th). Next in line were sophomores Christian Van Cleave (27:36.00; 27th) and Jordan Lorenz (27:53.80; 35th), freshman Ethan Pankow (28:34.38; 43rd) and senior Evan Asche (28:55.46; 51st).
With the season now over for the Bulldogs except for the individuals fortunate enough to be awarded bids to nationals, Concordia now looks ahead to the future.
Said Beisel, “We’re all happy with the progress we’ve made, but I know I’m still hungry for more. I’m proud of our kids, but I still want that top three, top two – that first place. It’s still going to take work to get there both on the recruiting front and through development of the runners that we have.”
The 2018 NAIA Cross Country National Championships will take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Nov. 16. More information about the national championships can be found HERE.