Dayna Wichhart—Staff Writer
For the past two weeks, Dordt University’s cross-country teams have been focused on one date and one date only: Nov. 6. The Great Plains Athletic Conference Championship meet.
This meet is important for the team for two reasons. First, how well the team runs defines the future of the season. For the men, they must finish in first place in order to qualify for the national meet. On the women’s side, they must take first or second in order to qualify. If they fail to qualify then their season is over. Second, winning the meet will also determine the conference champion for 2021.
“We want to be able to say we were one of the better teams of the conference year in and year out,” head coach Nate Wolf said.
The team has been preparing for this meet since the beginning of summer. The team practices six days a week consisting of long runs, interval workouts, and fast pace runs that mimic race days. On some days this means practicing morning and afternoon.
“We all know that our preparations have been for winning the conference meet and performing at the highest level at nationals,” senior Eric Steiger said.
Wolf has chosen not to change up the workouts for the teams much the past two weeks.
“We are staying consistent in our training,” junior Jessica Kampman said. “We are focusing on getting quality runs day after day.”
Historically, the cross-country teams have been a successful team on campus. The women’s team has qualified for nationals the past nine years, and if they qualify again this year, they will round it out with ten consecutive years of qualifying. The men’s team has qualified the past three years.
Fall 2021 has been no different. Throughout the five meets this season, the men’s team has taken three first place wins and the women’s team has taken two. At the Mount Marty Invite, the most recent meet, the men’s team had eight runners finish in the top ten, and first through seventh place were made up of Dordt runners.
Three Dordt runners have earned the GPAC runner of the week honor consistently throughout the year. In order to earn this, the runner must be nominated by either their coach or any coach in the GPAC. The nominations are then voted on by various Sports Information Directors in the conference.
“Jessica Kampman has been our top female runner all season,” Wolf said.
She has earned GPAC runner of the week four times this season, senior Jacob Vander Plaats has earned it three times, and Steiger has earned the title twice.
“One of the important aspects of the team this year is the overall experience the team has,” Vander Plaats said. “Close to three fourths the team is either a junior or senior.”
This experience has played into how the team has been preparing for the season. Kampman has been preparing for the season since June and claims the keys to her success have been consistency in training and staying healthy.
“Both teams have interchangeable runners,” Wolf said. “Whoever is having a good day slides to higher spots and whoever is having a rougher day fills the back spots on the scoring group.”
Having a team that is not dependent on a few set runners has allowed the team to have a more relaxed running style.
“It’s been fun for the team because it takes a bit of pressure off because they know there is someone else to pick up your spot if you don’t have a great day,” Wolf said. “It frees us to just go run and run our best and not worry.”
The men’s team is heading into the meet ranked 13th and the women are 14th. But this season’s records do not impact qualifying; it all rides on this one race.
“We could be really successful all year and go lay an egg there and it didn’t matter,” Wolf said.
The teams run at 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday Nov. 6. Dordt runners are all eager for the race and looking forward to seeing how they can continue the season. Wolf is confident in his runners and his teams.
“This has been the most focused and intentional team, both the men’s and women’s, that I’ve ever had,” Wolf said. “I’m excited to see what we can do on Saturday.