YANKTON, S.D. – A three-week layoff since the most recent meet ended on Saturday (Oct. 24) as the Concordia University Cross Country teams competed in an event that provided a preview of what could happen at the conference championships in two weeks. Chilly temperatures greeted the field of runners at the Mount Marty Invite in Yankton, S.D., where the Bulldogs placed third out of 14 teams on the women’s side and fifth out of 13 squads on the men’s side.
Head Coach Matt Beisel’s teams had spent the past few weeks training after last running at the Briar Cliff Invite on Oct. 3. This marked the fifth and final meet of the regular season.
On the women’s side, Concordia still has a goal of returning to the national meet. Said Beisel, “They ran great and ran with everything they had. (Second-place) Morningside ended up beating us by seven points. We had a great effort from Kylahn Heritage and Rylee Haecker and from the rest of our top seven. There was just a little bit too much of a split between our second and our third, fourth and fifth runners. The top 25 girls today (in the overall field) are the top 25 we should see in two weeks. I think we could very well finish in the top two (as a team) in the GPAC.”
On the men’s side, the Bulldogs were missing a couple of key runners. They are certainly in the hunt for a top three or four spot when it comes to the GPAC race. Said Beisel, “We had a phenomenal effort. Almost all of our top 10 guys had personal bests or season bests. To have that happen after a three-week break on a slower course than Briar Cliff was an outstanding effort. The challenge is going to be moving from a fourth-place position in conference, which is where we were today, into that top-three slot. It’s something we’ve been shooting at for years.”
Nearly all GPAC squads for both men and women were on hand for a meet that got started at noon. On the women’s side, Heritage is getting intense competition from Haecker (a freshman from Davenport, Neb.) for the title of the team’s top runner. Heritage (5k time of 19:01.22) edged out Haecker (19:01.27) for sixth place in a field of 150 individuals. Heritage, the GPAC runner up in 2019, has been the top Concordia runner at all four meets she’s competed in.
The rest of the top seven Bulldog females also finished in under 20 minutes: freshman Grace Reiman (19:32.41; 21st), senior Sydney Clark (19:35.59; 22nd), senior Lydia Cook (19:41.42; 24th), senior Alyssa Fye (19:58.93; 32nd) and junior Abi DeLoach (19:59.62). Clark and Fye garnered All-GPAC honors last season. Twenty-one Concordia women paced the trail in Yankton.
This was the first time all season that sophomore Camden Sesna did not lead the Bulldog pack on the men’s side. Unfortunately, he and junior Wyatt Lehr were pulled out of the meet. In Sesna’s absence, senior Jordan Lorenz claimed a 20th place finish while completing the 8k race in 26:30.05. The next three Concordia finishers in line were either freshmen or sophomores in freshman Calvin Rohde (26:35.38; 25th), sophomore Antonio Blaine (27:00.66; 36th) and sophomore Owen Dawson (27:09.34; 39th). Junior Ethan Pankow rounded out the team’s top five by placing 57th overall (27:42.48). Seventeen men represented the Bulldogs at the meet.
In terms of conference jockeying, the Concordia women placed behind Dordt (first) and Morningside (second) but ahead of eight other GPAC rivals. The only conference women’s team not at the meet was Jamestown. On the men’s side, the Bulldogs trailed Doane (first), Dordt (second) and Northwestern (third) while beating out four GPAC foes.
That puts a cap on the season for those who will not compete at the GPAC meet. Concordia and all other conference teams can enter 10 runners into the GPAC championships. The Bulldogs will be back at the same course (Fox Run) in Yankton on Nov. 7 for the conference meet.
Said Beisel, “I’m very proud of what our teams accomplished today and excited to see what’s going to happen over the next two weeks of training as we fine-tune everything. We’re preparing to make something good happen at GPAC.”