Haecker, Sesna pace Bulldogs to top-three finishes at Dordt meet

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 8, 2022 in Cross Country

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Up against some of their fiercest GPAC rivals, the Concordia University Cross Country squads both notched top-three place finishes at the Holiday Inn Express Classic hosted by Dordt on Saturday (Oct. 8). Spurred by Rylee Hacker, the 22nd-ranked Bulldog women placed second out of 14 teams while the Camden Sesna-led men’s team finished third out of 14 teams. Both Haecker and Sesna placed inside the top 10 individually in fields of more than 150 runners for the women’s 5k and men’s 8k.

This was the fourth time out for Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads, which had most recently competed at the Dean White Invitational on Sept. 24. Both teams are ranked inside the top three of the GPAC.

“I spent a lot of time in prayer about this meet,” Beisel said. “We’ve been getting in really good training and we’re trying some new things this year. There’s always a question mark as far as whether it’s working the way we want it to. Everything we’ve accomplished so far has gone pretty much according to what I expected. The question was: are we ready to go to a pretty important meet against really good opponents and perform well? The answer was yes. They knocked it out of the park. We didn’t get everything we wanted – I think we have the ability to perform even better.”

Saturday’s meet took place on the Dordt campus in Sioux Center, Iowa. As Beisel noted, the course features several hills and loops.

Women’s Breakdown

Ranked as high as 17th this season in the NAIA coaches’ poll, the Bulldogs have their sights set on a return to the national meet. With Haecker and Kylahn Freiberg out front, Concordia defeated five of the six GPAC rivals that were present in Sioux Center. Only host Dordt (ranked ninth nationally) outran the Bulldogs, who have placed third or better in each of the past three meets. Concordia’s point total came in at 80 while Dordt finished with 49.

“It was a really outstanding meet for Rylee,” Beisel said. “She poured it on in the last 500 meters and ended up passing Kylahn. It was an all-time personal best for Rylee. Rhaya (Kaschinske) ran the best races she’s ever run and Julie (McIntyre) ran her season best and was only about six seconds off her PR. There was some really good stuff. I’m just excited about the next few weeks.”

A national qualifier last season, Haecker returned to the trails after missing the Dean White Invite. Haecker emerged as the fifth highest place finisher among GPAC runners while clocking a 5k time of 18:30.35. This was the first time this season that Freiberg did not lead the way for the Bulldogs. She finished in 18:41.07. Next in the team’s top five were McIntyre (19:19.26), Kaschinske (19:20.12) and Beintema (19:32.45).

Concordia’s six through 10 runners at the meet were Keegan Beisel (20:22.26), Amie Martin (20:25.24), Courtney Wright (20:27.75), Faith Williamson (20:51.94) and Jaiden Tweton (21:01.59). Twenty-one competitors represented the Bulldogs.

Concordia top five (5k)
8. Rylee Haecker – 18:30.35
11. Kylahn Freiberg – 18:41.07
20. Julie McIntyre – 19:19.26
21. Rhaya Kaschinske – 19:20.12
26. Hannah Beintema – 19:32.45

Men’s Breakdown

The Bulldogs (126 points) slotted third behind Dordt (27) and Grand View University (60). Concordia avenged its loss to Doane at the Dean White Invite and edged out the Tigers (132) for third place. The Bulldogs also defeated Northwestern (265), Mount Marty (299), Morningside (353) and Briar Cliff (380). The two-time GPAC Runner of the Week Sesna crossed the finish line in 24:46.84 and was the top non-Dordt runner, among GPAC competitors.

“We were able to beat Doane, so that was a good sign for where we are,” Beisel said. “So many kids ran all-time personal bests. It played out similarly to previous meets with Camden, Calvin (Rohde) and Jimmy (Nguyen) coming out first, second and third. We are trying to get a bunch of guys as close to Camden and Calvin as we can.”

Incredibly consistent, the Kearney, Neb., native Sesna has been the top Dawg at all four meets in 2022. He was coming off an individual title at the Dean White Invite. Right behind him once again was Rohde, a fellow 2022 national qualifier. Rohde just missed a top 10 overall placement of his own. Next in line for Concordia were the likes of Jimmy Nguyen (26:12.12), Jack Ellis (26:38.51) and Aaron Jendro (26:52.31). Nguyen and Jendro are both freshmen who have made an immediate impact.

The six through 10 spots in the Bulldog lineup were held down in Sioux Center by Nathan Pennekamp (26:52.75), Thomas Gorline (27:04.88), Charlie Hayden (27:12.87), Jackson Smith (27:46.26) and Ryan Garvey (27:48.57). There were 15 Concordia competitors that finished the race. Micah Willweber, a regular in the team’s top 10, started the race and then withdrew due to an injury. Beisel expects Willweber to be ready to go for the next race.

Concordia top five (8k)
7. Camden Sesna – 24:46.84
13. Calvin Rohde – 25:06.86
31. Jimmy Nguyen – 26:12.12
50. Jack Ellis – 26:38.51
58. Aaron Jendro – 26:52.31

Up Next

In the final outing prior to the GPAC Championships, the Bulldogs will run at the Mount Marty Invite on Saturday, Oct. 22. The meet is scheduled to get underway at 10:30 a.m. CT from Fox Run Golf Course in Yankton, S.D.