Isabel Pheifer— Staff Writer
The Dordt University men’s and women’s cross-country teams capped off a successful season by winning the GPAC championship in Orange City, Iowa on Nov. 6 and placing eighth at the NAIA Cross Country Championships in Vancouver, Washington on Nov.19.
At the GPAC championship, two weeks before nationals, both men’s and women’s teams walked away with the title of back-to-back champions.
“It is always special to get a single conference championship,” head coach of the cross-country team Nate Wolf said. “However, when both teams get it, they get the opportunity to share in the excitement of the day.”
The men ran their way to a perfect score, winning their fourth consecutive conference title and breaking an over 40-year-old record of the lowest team score, previously held by Doane University. Davis Tebben, senior, was the individual men’s champion, running the 8K course in a time of 25:52.
“Winning the individual championship was an incredible blessing. It’s been a goal of mine for four years, and it was the first and only collegiate cross-country race I’ve ever won,” Tebben said. “Getting to lead this team to a GPAC record that will never be broken is priceless.”
The women’s side won their second consecutive championship and had all seven of their scoring runners place within the top 20. Jessica Kampman, junior, ranked as the top finisher for the Defenders, running the 5K course in 19:04, earning her the title of runner-up.
“Our coaches have demonstrated how to have fun during high pressure competitions and have reminded us that our worth is not found in our athletic performance, but how we can use our athletics to bring glory to God,” Kampman said.
The success both teams had at the GPAC meet pushed them towards their strong finish at the national meet.
“Both teams went into the national meet with a desire to have their strongest performance of the season,” Wolf said.
This desire was met, as both teams ended up placing within the top ten of the nation.
For the second consecutive year, the women placed eight in a field of 35 teams. The Defenders came into the meet ranked 14 and were able to finish six spots higher. Kampman led the way, running the 5K course in 18:46, earning herself a 20th place finish and an All-American status.
“I entered the race with the goal of being an All-American and I gave it everything I had. I was very thankful to come out of the race having achieved that goal,” Kampman said. “There are so many runners deserving of that honor, and I am grateful to have had a performance that allowed me to achieve it.”
Anika Homan, sophomore, crossed the finish line next for the Defenders with a 78th place finish. Senior Eden Winslow, junior Taylor Anema, and sophomore Margaret Myskowski came across the finish line next for the Defenders, all finishing within 11 seconds of each other. Brenna Tolkamp and Lucy Borkowski finished 160th and 204th respectively to round out the team.
The men had worked towards the national meet all year.
“This is by far the most work we have put into a season,” Tebben said. “We ran more miles than ever before and stayed focused on our goal of a high finish at nationals, from the beginning of summer until race day. That focus is what allowed us to compete so well.”
The time spent preparing for nationals showed as the men also walked away with an eighth-place finish.
Dordt’s men’s team placed eighth out of 36 highly competitive teams, earning them the highest place at nationals in program history, with five of the seven runners finishing within the top 100. Senior Eric Steiger came across the finish line first for the Defenders, completing the 8K in 23:39 and earning himself All-American honors. The next Dordt runner to finish overcame an unlikely obstacle: running a majority of the race without one of his shoes. Tebben lost a shoe in the first 1000m, but was still able to finish 49th, his highest finish in his four years competing at the national meet. Junior Joe Anderson and senior Nic Veldhorst finished 57th and 59th place, crossing the line within seconds of each other. Senior Jacob Vander Plaats also finished within the top 100 for the Defenders, grabbing the 71st spot. Sophomore Ethan Summerhays and junior Trey Engen finished 137th and 189th respectively.
“For both teams to be in the top 10 nationally shows the work the team puts in during the offseason and highlights the sacrifices they make during the season,” Wolf said. “As a coach, I love seeing the work put in being rewarded.”
After a season of breaking records and top finishes, the work is not done for the Dordt cross country team. Most runners on the team also participate in track, with the indoor season already underway. The running they do in track will help them to stay in shape and prepare for the next season of cross country.
“With this group, I know they will go back to work and continue to try their best in their next race,” Wolf said. “Whenever that may be.”