The Event...The Northwestern College cross country teams will compete in the 2013 GPAC Championships on Saturday, Nov. 9, hosted by Concordia University in Seward, Neb. The women's 5K race will get started at 10:45am, followed by the men's 8K race at 11:30am.
Teams Competing...All 11 conference teams will compete to determine both the individual and team champion. The top team, sans Nebraska Wesleyan (they declared to go NCAA D-III), will also qualify for the NAIA National Cross Country Championships on Nov. 23 as the GPAC representative. The top five individual runners, after all the runners from Nebraska Wesleyan and any teams that qualify for the national meet are taken out, provided they finish among the top 15 overall, will also qualify for nationals.
Last Year...Northwestern College cross country teams finished seventh (women's) and sixth (men's) out of 11 teams at the 2012 GPAC Championships held at the McCook Lake Nature Preserve in McCook Lake, S.D.
The women's team totaled 162 points, three behind fifth place Hastings with 159 points. Dordt College won its first ever GPAC title with 28 points while Concordia and Nebraska Wesleyan tied for a distant second with 91 points. Individually, the Red Raiders turned in eight personal best times and had their top seven runners all finish within 61 seconds of each other. Dawn Gildersleeve was the first NWC runner to cross the finish line with a 5K time of 18:40 for 15th overall. The junior will have to wait until the NAIA announces all of its at-large bids to find out if she qualified for nationals as an individual. Senior Amy Van Skike finished in 22nd place with a personal best time of 18:51 in her final race as a Red Raider. Just six seconds separated Northwestern's next four runners, led by senior Leslie Stover who finished 40th with a time of 19:17, followed by Kelley Thurman (42nd-19:18), Karissa DeJong (43rd-19:18) and Amber Sandbulte (45th-19:23). The final three Northwestern runners, Janet Pitsenberger (19:41), Jackie Niewenhuis (19:48) and Sarah Wittenberg (19:58), were the pushers and did not figure into the team score. They all ran personal bests and finished within 17 seconds of each other.
Two Concordia runners, Sarah Kortze and Jena Schwalenberg, finished first and second overall with times of 17:11 and 17:45, followed by six runners from Dordt College.
The Northwestern College men's team totaled 163 points, trailing fifth place Dordt by 48 points (115). Concordia won the men's team championship with 48 points, edging second place Morningside with 55 points. Nebraska Wesleyan (75) and Doane (84) round out the top five.
The men's team turned in seven personal bests, led by sophomores Skyler Giddings and Logan Hovland who were the top two runners for Coach Bahrke's squad for the sixth time. Giddings finished the 8K course in 18th place with a time of 25:49, followed closely by Hovland in 24th place with a time of 26:06. The next four NWC runners crossed the finish line within 15 seconds of each other, led by junior Zach Wittenberg in 39th place with a time of 26:40. Anthony Epp (40th-26:41), Caleb VanderBaan (46th-26:51) and Kyle Anderson (50th-26:55) were the other runners that counted toward the team score.
Colin Morrissey (Concordia) took home the individual championship with a time of 25:08, followed by Taylor Chapman (Morningside) in 25:15.
Northwestern Outlook...The women's team has finished among the top four teams in three of its last four meets, recording a second, third and fourth place finish during that time. Kelley Thurman has been one of the Red Raiders top runners every meet this year, placing among the top 20 in her last three meets. Dawn Gildersleeve also has been among one of the team's top runners, finishing within the top 20 three times. Amber Sandbulte has finished in the top 20 three times, followed by Jackie Niewenhuis and Janet Pitsenberger.
The women's field features two teams ranked in the top 25, including the fifth-ranked Dordt, the defending champion. Doane is ranked 22nd.
Northwestern's mens team has been in and out of the NAIA coaches' poll and has finished among the top three teams three times. They won two meets this year (Dean White and Herb Blakely) and placed third at the BCU Open. The trio of Logan Hovland, Skyler Giddings and Will Norris have led the men's team in every race. Norris has finished among the top 10 in their last four races while Hovland and Giddings placed in the top 25 in every race. Kyle Anderson, Zach Wittenberg and Caleb VanderBaan have also been among the top runners for Coach Bahrke's squad.
The men's field features three teams ranked in the last coaches' poll; Concordia (16), Dordt (23) and Morningside (RV).
Up Next...The NAIA National Cross Country Championships will be on November 23 in Lawrence, Kan. at Rim Rock Farm, hosted by the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.