Zach Steensma — Staff Writer
For most of the year, the Dordt Prairie is a peaceful place, boasting beautiful seasonal flora, a thriving wildlife habitat, and a quiet trail that never sees more than a few runners, pedestrians, and cyclists.
But every year, on an ordinary, late summer morning in early September, the regular rhythm of the Prairie is briefly interrupted by the swift sound of spike-shoed feet gliding across the dew covered grass.
September 8th marked the first race of the season for both of Dordt’s cross country teams. The annual Defender Holiday Inn Express Classic is Dordt’s annual home meet and the start of the season for the Defenders. This year saw roughly 100 athletes in total from three men’s teams and four women’s teams.
One unique aspect of this particular meet is the traditional inclusion of Dordt Alumni teams, which are made up of former athletes from across Defender nation. Athletes from Northwestern College and Dakota Wesleyan University were also represented at the meet.
The meet displayed the talents of the Dordt cross country program, as both the men’s and women’s teams saw a strong start to the season: each took first in their respective races.
“Both teams have prepared well for this season and that showed in the first meet,” said head Cross Country coach Nate Wolf.
The Dordt women took the top four individual spots with runners Annechiena Knevelbaard, Olivia Couch, Sarah Wensink and Eden Winslow placing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively.
On the men’s side, Dordt had six runners in the top ten finishers, with freshman Eric Steiger and sophomore Jacob Vander Plaats leading the pack.
Wolf noted that both teams have “a large contingent of young runners,” and pointed out that the more experienced upperclassmen play key leadership roles on the team: “We are focused on providing support for the young athletes as they acclimate to college racing, leadership positions within the team, and college life and general.”
Steiger and Winslow are just a couple of this year’s younger standouts. New faces, in collaboration with returning sophomores and experienced upperclassmen, make for a strong team and a promising season ahead.
“Each year is different and unique” said Wolf. “As coaches, we are excited to see what the year holds for the teams and individuals.”
The next meet of the season will be the Dean White Invitational, held on September 22 in Crete, Nebraska.