By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Home of the NAIA cross country meet, Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence Kan., welcomed the 19th-ranked Concordia men’s cross country team with frigid temperatures and piercing winds to suit a challenging course complete with steep hills, winding turns, covered bridges and wide terrains. Having made the trek to Rim Rock back on October 12, the Bulldogs knew what to expect.
Junior Ben Sievert was as prepared as anyone in the field. With a fearsome intensity in his eyes, he got out quick from the start of the gun, placing himself in the top 10 at the 100 meter mark. The early position would prove crucial to his 25:02, 19th-place overall finish, All-American honors and “the best race of his career” according to head coach Kregg Einspahr.
“I though Ben Sievert had just a tremendous race today,” Einspahr said. “He had an excellent time on a tough, challenging course. He was running very well, got himself in great position. He got himself in the top twenty right off the bat in the first 800 meters and he ran from there for the entire race. He was anywhere from 10th to 35th through the whole race. He had a great race and I think that was the highlight of the day.”
As a first time cross country All-American, the usual humble Sievert explained the mentality, toughness and strategy that it took to compete with the best of the best in the nation.
“I thought it went really well,” Sievert said. “The most important thing that I was worried about was just getting out and getting good position. Freshman year at nationals, I didn’t get good position and since then I’ve learned how important it is to get out hard. It’s gonna hurt, and it did hurt, but just getting out hard is what really set the tone.
“I found a couple guys that I recognized from the pre national meet and I just said, ‘I gotta stick with these guys.’ I know these guys are good and I can stick with these guys. I just let myself get latched on to that pack and just held on as long as I could I thank God for giving me the strength to run as well as I was able to today."
Behind Sievert, the rest of the Bulldog squad struggled to achieve and maintain position, which drastically affected the outcome of their overall team finish.
Although it was not the finish he was at all anticipating or hoping for, Einspahr looked for the positives in the midst of disappointment.
“We were happy on the men’s side to finish in the top 25,” Einspahr said. “We’re happy that it fits into the tradition of top 25 finishes over the last 20 years. Clearly, we would have like to have finished a little bit better than that, but we’ll go home knowing we had a good season. When you get to this level, different things can happen. We probably had some tactical errors during the race that we can learn from. Hopefully we can come back next year and improve on that team finish.”
Sievert added his own insight on the team’s finish, and complimented his senior teammates who raced for the last time on Saturday.
“I thought the team did OK,” Sievert said. “Like coach said, we just didn’t get out hard and at this race, that really just costs you. But we did have a lot of great things. I think Beau Billings ran a (personal record) and Beau and Hayden were just great seniors this year. They were great leaders for the team and were a lot of fun to run with the last three years and everyone else. It was a great experience for the team and it will help some of us younger guys. And hopefully we can look on and build off this for next year.”
Billings finished his season with an exclamation point, placing second for the Bulldogs in 26:21. Not far behind was Hohnholt in 26:38, with sophomore Jordan Potrzeba, who after face planting at the half mile mark, was able to regain his footing and finish in 26:47. Junior Charlie Bloomfield was next in 26:52.
Sievert, a three-time all-conference place finisher, is an All-American for the first time in his cross country career.