PREVIEW: Cross country travels to Mitchell on Saturday for GPAC championships

By on Nov. 5, 2014 in Cross Country

PREVIEW: Cross country travels to Mitchell on Saturday for GPAC championships

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University cross country programs take on the most important competition of their seasons on Saturday. Dakota Wesleyan will serve as the host for the 2014 GPAC Cross Country Championships, which will be held at Wild Oak Private Golf Course in Mitchell, S.D. The women’s race gets underway at 11:15 a.m. with the men to follow at 12 p.m.

“The conference championship in just about every sport in the GPAC is just a war and track and cross country in particular since all the conference schools are all out in one place at the same time,” 23rd-year head coach Kregg Einspahr said. “It’s a knock-down, drag-out fight. It comes down to the teams that are the most competitive and are best prepared on that day. A lot of that is coaching, some of that is grit by the athletes who come out with determination in terms of what they want to get accomplished.”

Date: Saturday, Nov. 8
Time: women at 11:15 a.m.; men at 12 p.m.
Host: Dakota Wesleyan
Location: Wild Oak Private Golf Course
2500 East 1st Street, Mitchell, SD, 57301
Course description: Grass course with some gravel, rolling bunny hills
Parking: all vehicles on Quiett Lane

At the 2013 GPAC championships, hosted by Concordia, the Bulldog men placed third while the women finished fifth. In Einspahr’s first 22 seasons, he’s led the cross country programs to nine combined GPAC/NIAC team titles. His men’s and women’s teams have also totaled 18 combined runner-up conference finishes during that time. In addition, the last 22 years of Bulldog cross country have yielded 16 individual conference champions (10 men, six women).

This year’s Bulldog squads appear to be peaking at the appropriate time. Led by freshman Emily Sievert, the women earned a fourth-place finish out 17 teams in their most recent competition – the Mount Marty Invite on Oct. 25. Sievert placed 17th out of 192 runners with her time of 19:10.51. Sievert is the frontrunner for a young group that has steadily improved.

“I thought they had a much better race at the Mount Marty Invite,” Einspahr said. “It’s a young team that’s been trying to gain some confidence. I think they have some good abilities. It’s just a matter of taking what they’ve been able to do in practice and translating that to competition. They are certainly capable. It’s more of mental thing at this point.”

While this year’s team has gotten a boost from an infusion of youngsters, the Bulldogs return nine of the 10 runners who competed at the 2013 GPAC championships, including senior Renee Williams. She placed 15th last season to grab all-conference honors. Sievert and others such as Jordyn Sturms, Megan Burma and Kim Wood figure to be in contention for top-15 finishes on Saturday.

“Emily Sievert of course has been running well all season,” Einspahr said. “Megan Burma and Jordyn Sturms have been really coming around and improving every week. And you can never count Kim Wood out. She has tremendous potential.”

Ranked as high as 23rd nationally after a solid performance at the Woody Greeno Invite on Sept. 20, the Concordia women have a shot at a top-two team finish. Second-ranked Dordt has put together an impressive season and enters the race as a clear favorite.

The men also put together a solid effort at the Mount Marty Invite. Concordia has been paced all season by senior Ben Sievert, a 2013 NAIA All-American and three-time cross country all-conference performer. Sievert, who ran a time of 26:30 at last year’s GPAC meet, finished the flat Mount Marty course in 25:47. The Frankenmuth, Mich., native looks primed for another top-of-the-GPAC placement.

After taking things easy for a couple days last week to rest a banged up Achilles, Sievert is back to form.

“I think he’s feeling a lot better and ready to go,” Einspahr said. “He’s been running real well the past couple days. Obviously he’s one of the top runners in the conference. It will be great to see how he goes out in his last conference championship. He’s a senior so he’s looking to put together a real strong race.”

While there’s been a gap between Sievert and the team’s No. 2 runners this season, junior Jordan Potrzeba (2013 all-conference) and several others appear to possess the ability to place in all-conference territory. At Mount Marty, senior Josh Allwardt, freshman Kohlton Gabehart and junior Taylor Mueller rounded out the team’s top five.

“Jordan’s been improving all season long,” Einspahr said. “He’s looking to have his best race of the season. The rest of the team has been improving as well. Hopefully they can put together their best races of the season at the conference championship.”

The veteran head coach says the men can give themselves a good shot an at-large berth to the national championships by beating out No. 23 Northwestern and Dordt, which is receiving votes in the NAIA coaches’ poll.

Based on the national polls, the 12th-ranked Morningside men and the second-ranked Dordt women enter as favorites to defend their 2013 GPAC titles.

Last year’s third-place GPAC finish helped the Bulldog men earn an at-large bid to the 2013 national championships, where they placed 24th out of 32 teams. Since 1992, Einspahr has qualified at least one of his teams for the cross country national championships in every season.

Should the Concordia teams happen to fall short of reaching the national championships, there would remain an opportunity for several Bulldogs to qualify as individuals. In two appearances on the national stage, Ben Sievert has placed 19th (2013) and 51st (2012).

Official 2014 GPAC men’s ratings

*National rank in parentheses
1. Morningside (12)
2. Northwestern (23)
3. Dordt (RV)
4. Concordia (RV)
5. Doane
6. Midland
7. Hastings
8. Mount Marty
9. Briar Cliff
10. Dakota Wesleyan
--Nebraska Wesleyan not rated due to NCAA DIII affiliation

Official 2014 GPAC women’s ratings
*National rank in parentheses
1. Dordt (2)
2. Doane (RV)
3. Concordia
4. Hastings
5. Morningside
6. Northwestern
7. Mount Marty
8. Midland
9. Briar Cliff
10. Dakota Wesleyan
--Nebraska Wesleyan not rated due to NCAA DIII affiliation 

2013 GPAC championships results
*Returners in bold


  • Ben Sievert – 26:30 (3rd out of 95)
  • Hayden Hohnholt – 26:44 (6th)
  • Jordan Potrzeba – 26:57 (9th)
  • Beau Billings – 27:10 (15th)
  • Chris Shelton – 27:48 (30th)
  • Charlie Bloomfield – 27:54 (32nd)
  • Josh Allwardt – 27:59 (36th)
  • Taylor Mueller – 28:10 (43rd)
  • Creighton Pearse – 28:54 (58th)
  • Adam Prahlow – 30:03 (74th)


  • Renee Williams – 19:23 (15th out of 94)
  • Erika Schroeder – 20:14 (31st)
  • Jenean Williams – 20:18 (33rd)
  • Megan Burma – 20:21 (34th)
  • Kim Wood – 20:33 (40th)
  • Ashley Canfield – 20:35 (41st)
  • Haley Harpham – 20:42 (47th)
  • Michaela Curran – 20:55 (53rd)
  • Angie Steinbacher – 21:10 (57th)
  • Lauren Pankow – 22:11 (75th)

2014 GPAC runners of the week

Sept. 10 – Alec DeVries, Morningside
Sept. 17 – Skyler Giddings, Northwestern
Sept. 24 – Mark Abrams, Morningside
Oct. 1 – Danny Aldaba, Midland
Oct. 8 – No nominees
Oct. 15 – Ben Sievert, Concordia
Oct. 22 – No nominees
Oct. 29 – Danny Aldaba, Midland 
Sept. 10 – Nicole Slater, Dordt
Sept. 17 – Lauren Shomaker, Hastings
Sept. 24 – Gabi Jenkins, Nebraska Wesleyan
Oct. 1 – Marissa DeWispelare, Doane
Oct. 8 – Jordyn Hudelson, Mount Marty
Oct. 15 – Marissa DeWispelare, Doane
Oct. 22 – Gabi Jenkins, Nebraska Wesleyan
Oct. 29 – Kayla Byl, Dordt