Alli Young- Staff Writer
Saturday, Oct. 22—The Defender cross country team flooded the Mount Marty Invitational with gold jerseys in its last regular season meet. The ladies ran away with the team title with their five scorers all finishing in the top 10. The men earned runner-up honors, beating Morningside for the second week in a row. Northwestern’s men took the team title.
Dordt athletes also earned two runner-up honors individually, with seniors Justine Van Zee finishing the 5K in 18:31 and Caleb Drake finishing the 8K in 25:25. Van Zee, a team captain, was excited not only for her breakthrough performance of the season but also for the team’s success.
“I think as a team, all our girls ran really well, and we ran with a lot of heart, so that was really encouraging to see,” Van Zee said. “Personally, I’ve just been kind of waiting to get a good race under my belt, and I felt encouraged after that race.”
Head Coach Nate Wolf, pleased with the outcomes of both races, said that it was both squads’ best performances of the year. Assistant Coach Lori Wolf attributed a lot of their success to the well-executed strategy of running in tight packs.
“We’re always pleased to win a race, and it was nice to get Morningside back after they had beaten us the last couple meets,” Wolf said in reference to the ladies.
The men have now sparred with conference rival Morningside College for three consecutive meets. For the first time in years, the Defenders defeated Morningside, not once, but twice. The Defenders have lost to 18th-ranked Northwestern College in the past three meets.
“I think we actually ran better than we did at Briar Cliff as a whole team,” Wolf said. “When you look at the results, we were essentially the same in relationship to Northwestern, but we actually opened up a little bit more on Morningside.”
Several key individuals ran strong and tactical races, with all five of the men’s point-scorers placing in the top 20. Caleb Drake (second-place), Nick VanderKooi (10th), Sam Wensink (12th), Adam Daane (14th) and Ben Brockmueller (17th) scored a combined total of 55 points and had an average time of 26:26. Wolf also commented on the excellent performances of Alex Van Ginkel, David Te Krony and Riley Schaap.
“It wasn’t just the top two or three that ran well. It was all the way through that group of men,” Wolf said.
With several larger competitors, including Doane and Concordia, absent from this year’s Mount Marty Invitational, Dordt capitalized on the idea of dominating the field with its volume and depth of runners. The ladies landed all seven runners of their varsity squad in
the top 20: Van Zee (second), Julia Bos (fifth), Erin Bandstra (seventh), Erika Douma (eighth), Audrey Brooks (10th), Annechiena Knevelbaard (12th) and Kelsey Lewis (17th).
“I don’t know that I can pick many women that didn’t have a good race,” Wolf said. “We looked really strong all the way throughout.”
Next up, the top 10 XC ladies and men will compete in the GPAC Championship meet, hosted by Hastings College, on Nov. 5. After some healthy back-and-forth competition among conference rivals in the past few meets, the ladies are ready to defend their four-year conference championship streak, and the men are posed to steal the crown from Northwestern.
Along with the fun of team competition, cross country offers an opportunity to shine individually. Van Zee, a senior, is looking to improve upon last year’s elite finish at the conference championship.
“I placed third at conference last year, so a goal is to place third or better at conference,” Van Zee said. “It’s going to be really tough, but that’s why it’s a goal.”
Coach Wolf plans to keep the team healthy, focused and ready to peak in the coming days. Like any good coach, he likes to save the best for last.
“I don’t think we’ve had our best race yet, and I hope that that’s in two weeks,” Wolf said.