Allison Young- Staff Writer
September 24—The Dordt cross country squad battled masses of runners and a soggy, hilly golf course at their biggest meet of the year: The Roy Griak Invitational.
In spite of poor running conditions, the Defender women placed 25th out of 40 teams in the NCAA Division II race, beating every NAIA school except for Morningside College. The men’s team placed 26th out of 40 teams, finishing fourth to other teams in the GPAC conference.
“I think that for our women, we didn’t probably get our position quite as well as we did last year at the start of the race,” Head Coach Nate Wolf said. “I think we moved really well through the middle of the race, but we just had so much ground to make up.”
Freshman Erin Bandstra moved up exceptionally well through the 6,000-meter race. Bandstra passed 53 women from the first thousand meters to the last thousand meters, finishing third for the Defenders.
“Erin Bandstra ran phenomenally,” Wolf said. “She ran incredibly, incredibly well.”
Lori Wolf, the team’s assistant coach and the wife of Nate Wolf, expressed her excitement about the Erin’s performance, along with Schuyler Malenke, a freshman on the men’s team, who finished fourth for Dordt.
“Both she and Schuyler moved very well throughout their races,” Lori Wolf said. “It was really fun to see them progress through the pack.”
Nate Wolf thought the men’s team had a good showing, considering the absence of several of their top runners.
Caleb Drake, a senior transfer, competed for Dordt for the first time this season after running unattached at Grinnell and overcoming an injury prior to that.
“I told Coach before the start of the race, ‘No going back here,’” Drake said. “It felt good.”
Drake didn’t waste any time moving to the front of the pack in the 8,000-meter race, jockeying for a top-ten position at several points in the race. He crossed the line 31st out of 453 finishers in the Division II race. Drake led the Dordt men, with Sam Wensink and Nick VanderKooi scoring in the second and third positions.
Even though Drake is new to Dordt, he’s no rookie to cross country. Tenth-place individual finisher at the 2015 NAIA National Championship, Drake is already using his experience to help lead and motivate the men’s team as they head into the final stretch of the season.
“I think we’re in a few different spots [mentally] on the guys’ team, so if we get a collective mindset going, I think we can go forward with the season a little better, and try to get ranked, and see what we can do,” Drake said.