While being one of the more overlooked sports at Concordia, the men’s and women’s cross country teams are both substantially large group that work just as hard as every other team at to achieve their goals. Even though this has been more of a difficult season for both teams due to multiple illnesses and injuries, the close bond the team’s share helped them remain strong throughout the season.
Two weeks ago the teams competed in the MIAC Championship meet at Como Park in St. Paul. According to the men’s head coach Garrick Larson, the men had some difficult points this season, which upped the importance of this meet and remains positive for the team’s next meet.
“Despite the downfalls, I am optimistic for the NCAA Regional,” Larson said. “It is a chance to redeem our rough finish at MIAC.”
This season has been a bit unusual for the men’s team, several runners underwent some unusual circumstances. Early in the season, the team lost Erick Larson their number one freshman, and Brenden Johnson their number two freshman. Later into the season, two other men stepped aside because one obtained an injury and another got the stomach flu. Despite this loss, the men persevered and headed into the MIAC tournament with high hopes.
“We had hoped for a better finish at MIAC, but ended up eleventh,” Larson said. “The MIAC is an extremely competitive conference from top to bottom; there are no weak teams, and the conference has three very highly ranked teams in the national poll.”
The last competition of the year, the NCAA Central Region Championship, was held this past Saturday at Central College in Pella, Iowa. The men’s team placed 22nd and the women’s team placed 25th.
One of the women’s team highlights was the meet at Augustana in South Dakota in September. Senior Anna Snejtles and team captain felt the meet’s atmosphere created a fun and enjoyable race for the women.
“All of the girls were really pumped up because our race was at 8:30 p.m. so we got to race under the lights and with all of the spectators and some DI and DII schools, it was a really fun atmosphere,” Sneltjes said.
Marv Roeske, head coach of the women’s team, felt the Augustana meet was a great experience for both her and the women.
“The crisp night air produces speed and adrenaline,” Roeske said. A lot of times I couldn’t find them in the pack because it was so dark, but it was a neat experience. The runners loved it.”
Although Roseke knows the team will not qualify for Nationals, she is sure the team will have the chance to compete in this year’s Regional competition.
“We’re going to Regionals to compete and do our best, but Nationals isn’t something that’s within our grasp,” Roeske said. “It’s what we aim for in the program, and hopefully we will get there sometime in the future.”
Though Roeske acknowledges that Concordia will not qualifies for Nationals, she is very pleased with all the hard work the women put forth this season.
“They all work really hard, and everyone not the team gets along really well,” Roeske said. I think some of them wouldn’t do the sport if it wasn’t for the teammates. That’s truly the case for some of the kids.”
Concordia’s cross country family is very unique. Not only do the teams have a great bond, Larson feels the team’s chemistry can not be re-created by our NCAA competitors.
“Our teams have a family feel that most NCAA teams cannot match,” Larson said. “We are very intentional about a focus on a team philosophy and building relationships within the team.”
Coach Larson and Coach Roeske have been working together for the last 20 years, and have shared an office for the entirety of their careers together. Their ability to bounce ideas off each other has been a huge benefit to both teams.
“Marv is my lifelong work partner and someone I would have an extremely difficult time without,” Larson said. “When we are in the office together we talk through injury or team issues to come up with a better solution or plan. Just having someone to share successes with and vent when times are tough has been a Godsend.”
Sneltjes has run cross country for Concordia for the past four years. She shares the position of captain of the women’s team along with senior Mariah Lardy. Snelties believes the unique bond the men and women share help the teams accomplish their goals.
“Our team is a very close knit group…that’s what happens when you run miles upon miles with each other,” Sjeltjes said. “We always have fun together both at practice and outside of practice but we also do a lot for each other in terms of motivation and support.”
Roeske has a very high opinion of Sneltjes and her commitment to the team, and shows a lot of appreciation towards both her and Lardy as captains of the team.
“Anna and Mariah have both been outstanding captains, maybe the best we’ve ever had,” Roeske said. “This is Anna’s first year she gets to run in a regional meet, which I’m really excited about. She deserves it.”
As the season comes to a close, both teams have helped Concordia’s athletic program shine in a new manner. Aside from showing competitors their dedication to the sport, both the runners and coaches have let their love for the sport grow to new heights.
In the weeks to come, the Cobbers will be preparing for the National and Regional championships and will head to the league’s National meet at Wilmington College in Ohio, which will take place on Nov. 22.
Class of 2015. English Literature major with an Art minor. News Writer for the Concordian.