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NAIA announces cross country National Championships qualifiers

By on Nov. 5, 2012 in Cross Country

NAIA announces cross country National Championships qualifiers

NAIA Release

Thanks to its second GPAC title in the last four years, head coach Kregg Einspahr’s 13th-ranked Concordia men’s cross country squad punched its ticket to the 2012 NAIA National Championships. Monday’s official announcement from the NAIA means that the Bulldog men will make the trip to the national stage for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

“Nationals are a whole different ball game,” Einspahr said. “It’s easy to fold your tent if you haven’t been there before. We have a mix of guys with some that have been there. I think we can compete very well. We haven’t hit our peak yet. I think we can finish in the top 15. We’ve got a team that’s going to go in and have its best meet of the season.”

On the women’s side, Concordia seniors Sarah Kortze and Jena Schwalenberg qualified individually after finishing 1-2 at the GPAC Championships on Nov. 3.

“I’m really excited for Sarah and Jena,” Einspahr said. “They have run extremely well to this point. For Sarah to finish in 17:11 at the Briar Cliff course (at the GPAC Championships) was really just a tremendous time. Both have goals to finish in the top 30 and be recognized as All-Americans.”

However, the women’s team as a whole failed to earn a National Championships berth. The Bulldog women, ranked No. 21 in Sunday’s coaches’ poll, had received an invitation to nationals in 17 of the previous 18 years.

“It’s disappointing not to get an at-large berth after how well we ran at the GPAC Championships,” Einspahr said. “When you combine the times of our top five gals it compares favorably with teams that I’ve had finish in the top 10 in the country.”

The 57th annual men’s and 33rd annual women’s event will take place at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 17. The women’s 5K championship race will start at 10:30 a.m. PST, followed by the men’s 8K run at 11:45 a.m.

On the men’s side, the 32-team field is made up of 21 conference/independent/unaffiliated group champions, one conference/independent/unaffiliated group runner-up and nine at-large selections. Concordia (Ore.) received a host berth to the event. There are also 105 individual qualifiers.

The 32-team women's field features 22 conference/independent/unaffiliated group champions, two conference/independent/unaffiliated group runner-ups and seven at-large selections. Concordia (Ore.) received a host berth for the event. There are also 109 individual qualifiers.

Einspahr’s women represented Concordia at the 2011 NAIA National Championships with a 17th place finish. Kortze ran to All-America honors with a time of 18:03 on the 5K course, good enough for 13th place individually. Schwalenberg clocked in 19:29 on the way to a 102nd place finish amongst the 323 runners in the field.

Sophomore Ben Sievert will be making his second-straight appearance at the National Championships after qualifying individually last season. The Frankenmuth, Mich., native ran the 8K course in a time of 26:36, putting him in 207th place out of 312 runners. In their last team appearance, the men took 20th place at the 2010 National Championships, where Colin Morrissey, the 2012 GPAC individual titlist, finished 108th with a time of 27:02. Morrissey, who was part of the 2009 national runner up squad, will make his third career appearance at nationals.

With their main goal of winning a conference title accomplished, Morrissey sees the trip to nationals as an added bonus.

“Part of the reason I came to Concordia is because historically we have been a winning program,” Morrissey said. “Every year it first goes winning the conference – that’s the first goal. And then whatever happens at nationals happens. Keeping the tradition going and competing for conference titles is what we are all about.”

In terms of National Championships appearances and overall team finishes, the Bulldogs have one of the NAIA’s top cross country programs for both men and women. Using a formula created by the NAIA Cross Country Coaches Association, Concordia has the top women’s program in the NAIA since 1980 among current members. Meanwhile, the men rank sixth in the NAIA among current programs when applying the same formula to all National Championships since 1957.