SEWARD, Neb. – Roughly 52 miles will separate senior Ben Sievert and his fiancée Rachel Mussell as they both prepare to represent Concordia University at national championship events on Saturday. In Lawrence, Kan., Sievert will hit the Rim Rock Farm course at 11:45 a.m. for his fourth-straight cross country national championships appearance. About an hour north, Mussell and the Bulldog women’s soccer team will kick off the program’s first-ever national tournament appearance at 2 p.m.
If Sievert is to claim his second-consecutive All-America honor, excuse him if he rushes off the medal stand for an update on the soccer action in Atchison. Perhaps a big performance from Sievert will lead into an upset of No. 9 Benedictine College for Mussell and the 24th-ranked Bulldogs in the afternoon.
“It’s really exciting,” Sievert said. “I kept joking with her last week about how badly I didn’t want her to be able to make my national meet. Now that they are playing an hour from Lawrence, she is joking that she doesn’t want me to make it to her game because that would mean I have to be at the All-American awards presentation. It’s been a lot of fun for both of us and we are excited to cheer each other on this weekend from afar.”
The unique situation is one that neither Sievert nor Mussell is likely to forget. Imagine how special the day will be should both have the opportunity to celebrate successful national championship Saturdays.
“It's really cool to be in this situation and is something we have both been talking about since this summer,” Mussell said. “I know this summer when we were both training, we would joke about how we had to cheer each other on then because when we achieved our goals of going to nationals, we would be competing at the same time.
“I told him he had to be an All American so he couldn't come to my game. All jokes aside, it is so great to have him as a constant support and encouragement, and even though we can't always be there physically to cheer for each other, it's great knowing we are both out there competing and trying to achieve our goals.”
Like the women’s soccer team, Sievert appears to be performing at an optimal level at the right time. On Nov. 8 he placed fourth at the GPAC championships by finishing in a time of 25:17.69. For the fourth year in a row, the native of Frankenmuth, Mich., had claimed a top-six finish at the conference meet, giving him all-GPAC honors each season. During his impressive career at the conference level, Sievert also helped the 2012 Bulldogs to a GPAC title.
At the national championships (held in Vancouver, Wash., during Sievert’s first two seasons), the Concordia frontrunner has steadily improved. He went from 207th place (26:36) his freshman year to 51st (25:38) in 2012 and all the way up to 19th (25:02.13) last season as he earned his first cross country All-America honor.
Even with brutally cold temperatures nipping at his heels in recent weeks, Sievert has maintained a regimen that he believes will allow him a chance to reach his goal of a top-15 finish on Saturday.
“It’s been a very cold last couple of weeks,” Sievert said. “I haven’t been able to do any track workouts because of the snow, so I’ve done most of my workouts on the road which is a change. You basically just have to suck it up, bundle up and get out the door and run in conditions like these.
“In terms of training since GPAC, last week was more just longer, easy runs to kind of get my legs back under me after conference, and then later into the week I started doing some road workouts. At this point it’s all just about getting fresh and ready to run so you can compete well at nationals.”
The 2014 NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championships is comprised of 36 teams and 76 individuals set to run at Rim Rock Farm. It’s a course Sievert has competed at three prior times in his career. He hopes his final race there ends with another plaque. Only then can he turn his attention to the goings on in Atchison.
Sievert’s results at Rim Rock Farm
Oct. 12, 2013, NAIA Preview Meet – 13th out of 272 (25:28.65)
Nov. 23, 2013, NAIA National Championships – 19th out of 313 (25:02.13)
Oct. 11, 2014, NAIA Preview Meet – 6th out of 300 (25:43.6)
Sievert on the Rim Rock Farm course
I really like this Rim Rock Farm course. It is a really hilly course and I have always been a fan of hills. My high school course was one of the hilliest courses I’ve ever run, so mentally I have just always loved hilly courses and feel I can compete well on them. I also think that having the race in Kansas will help me over some of the coastal schools because I have more practice time in the snow/cold/windy conditions and those can really slow runners down if they aren’t used to it. Even though Saturday’s weather is supposed to warm up, I still think some of those runners might be at a little bit of a disadvantage. All in all, I really like the Rim Rock course and am looking forward to racing it one last time.
On representing the Concordia cross country program
It’s a really big honor to be able to represent this program. Coach (Kregg) Einspahr has done such a fantastic job of not only building but also maintaining this program here, so to be able to carry that legacy on at nationals is really special and means a lot to me. I hope I am able to run and make everyone proud. I also know a lot of my teammates are going to come down and watch, which means a lot. I may be the only one at the starting line but I know I will have a lot of my teammates there with me.
How this year feels different than the previous three national championship trips
This year feels different for a couple reasons. First off, it’s my senior year and I can’t say I will have another chance anymore, so mentally I am just super excited to go out there and leave it all out on the course one last race. I’ve been running cross country for eight years now so it’s kind of bittersweet to have it come to a close, but I’m excited I get one last chance at nationals to go out and compete.