TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As a cap to the 2022 season, eight Bulldogs represented the Concordia Cross Country programs at the NAIA Cross Country National Championships held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Fla., on Friday (Nov. 18). Led by Kylahn Freiberg’s season best performance, the Bulldog women’s team placed 27th nationally out of the 36 squads that qualified. Meanwhile, Camden Sesna concluded his cross country career as an individual national qualifier.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s squads put together solid seasons that included GPAC place finishes of second on the men’s side and third on the women’s side. The women’s team was rewarded with one of the final at-large bids into the national meet. This marked the second time Beisel has guided the women’s program to the national meet.
“This is the best season we’ve had from a two-team perspective since I’ve been here,” Beisel said. “For the men to get second place at conference with a relatively young group of guys, that gave us a lot to build on and a lot of excitement looking forward. We were receiving votes all season for the first time. On the women’s side, we were ranked second in the GPAC all season long. From a historical perspective, our men and women had a really good year. We bring back a great group of girls.”
Freiberg, Rylee Haecker and Amie Martin each brought prior national championships experience to the lineup on Friday morning. A native of Nampa, Idaho, Freiberg rallied back from the injuries that had plagued her last season to enjoy a 2022 that featured an eighth-place finish in the GPAC and a near personal best of 18:34.7 at the NAIA national meet. That time was an improvement from the 18:42.4 Freiberg ran at the 2019 national championships held in Vancouver, Wash. Freiberg placed 33rd in 2019 and followed it up by placing 69th (out of 326 runners) here in 2022. Her efforts paved the way for the Bulldogs to place second among GPAC squads at the meet.
Concordia women at 2022 NAIA National Championships
69. Kylahn Freiberg – 18:34.7
151. Hannah Beintema – 19:21.4
161. Julie McIntyre – 19:25.6
215. Rylee Haecker – 19:45.3
238. Rhaya Kaschinske – 19:59.2
276. Amie Martin – 20:29.4
286. Keegan Beisel – 20:44.1
Two newcomers to Concordia finished as the team’s second and third runners in Tallahassee. Freshman Hannah Beintema ran a new personal best of 19:21.4 and crossed the finish line in 151st place. Next in line, All-GPAC award winner Julie McIntyre (transfer from Trinity Christian College) placed 161st in a time of 19:25.6. No stranger to the national stage, the six-time NAIA track & field All-American Haecker clocked a time of 19:45.3 (215th). Also a member of the 2019 GPAC championship team that finished 12th at nationals, Amie Martin ran the 5k in 20:29.4 (20:29.4) on Friday. Finally, sophomore Rhaya Kaschinske finished in 19:59.2 (238th) and freshman Keegan Beisel ran 20:44.1 (286th).
Said Beisel, “We wanted to establish that we were a top 25 caliber team – 27th is right in the ballpark. We saw this as another opportunity to be the second-best team in the conference. We accomplished those goals. I feel pretty good about how it all went. Kylahn ran the third-fasted race of her life for cross country. She ran a very smart race. Our girls came out fast and were able to continue moving up in the pack for a lot of the way. Hannah Beintema had a breakthrough race for her and Julie also ran a great race. I’m also really proud of Rylee.”
A fifth-place finisher at the GPAC Championships, Sesna has concluded a terrific cross country career. The Kearney, Neb., native made back-to-back trips to the national meet. After he placed 116th in an 8k time of 26:54.7 at last year's national meet in Vancouver, Sesna made his way to Tallahassee and clocked in at 25.51.8, good for 138th place out of 318 runners that finished the race. Sesna’s accomplishments this season included an individual title at the Dean White Invite and two GPAC Runner of the Week awards. Sesna persevered through injury late in the fall to put together quality times at both the conference and national meets.
“Camden’s goal was to run under 26 minutes,” Beisel said. “He hasn’t been able to run for two weeks, so we had him going to Fallbrook to do some pool running with an aqua belt. It’s not ideal training, but better than nothing. He said it didn’t hurt too bad to run. He wanted to go out and have fun, and not overthink it, and he did. He put together a very solid race, all things considered.”
After taking a breather, the Concordia distance crew will turn its focus to the upcoming indoor track season. Beisel and the program will be hosting the Bulldog Early Bird Meet the weekend of Dec. 9-10.
Said Beisel in reflection of the national meet, “Our team gave this meet up to Christ in our devotions the two nights before. That’s where our focus was and that’s who we give credit to for all our successes.”