Women's cross country garners national respect in new NAIA poll

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 11, 2018 in Cross Country

NAIA Top 25 Poll (Oct. 10)

SEWARD, Neb. – Both Concordia University cross country programs are in the process of working their way back up the ladder on the conference and national scales. A breakthrough performance for the Bulldog women at last week’s Briar Cliff Invitational bumped them up to fourth in the GPAC rankings and has them once again on the national radar. Senior Taylor Grove and company are now receiving votes in the NAIA coaches’ top 25 poll released on Wednesday (Oct. 10).

This week’s polls are another indication of a team on the upswing. Head coach Matt Beisel, now in his third season leading the Concordia cross country and track programs, has hopes of guiding the women’s squad to a top-four GPAC finish while perhaps even making a push at a team berth to the NAIA national championships.

Historically a powerhouse in the NAIA, the Bulldog women’s cross country program last appeared in the national top 25 poll on Oct. 21, 2015. The team is currently garnering votes in the national poll for the first time since the end of that 2015 season. The Concordia women are seeking to get back to the national championships as a team for the first time since 2011. The past indicates the Bulldogs can make a dent on the national landscape. From the 2000 through 2004 seasons, Concordia’s women placed as the national runner up four times.

Even if the Bulldogs fall short of qualifying the team for nationals, there are competitors such as Grove who have the ability to reach the national stage individually. A GPAC 10,000 meter champion and two-time NAIA national qualifier in the marathon, Grove ran a 5k personal best by finishing in 18:27.18 last week at the Briar Cliff Invite. Teammates such as junior Rebekah Hinrichs (12th at Briar Cliff) and freshman Abi DeLoach (13th at Briar Cliff) could also make runs at national bids.

The fast course at Adams Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, S.D., suited Concordia well. Twenty-six Bulldog runners at the Briar Cliff Invite had an average time of 19:00.61, which was more than a minute improvement from the team’s average of 20:27.05 at the Dean White Invite on Sept. 22. At the same Adams Nature Preserve course, Concordia’s average was 20:43.39 in 2017.

The Bulldog women are one of five either ranked or “receiving votes” teams in the GPAC. According to the poll, the top teams in the conference are No. 9 Dordt, No. 22 Hastings, Northwestern (RV; 26th), Concordia (RV; 31st) and Morningside (RV; 35th).

Next up for both Bulldog cross country programs is the Seminole Valley Stampede at Seminole Valley Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 20. The meet will precede the GPAC championships on Saturday, Nov. 3.