The 2011 Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Cross Country Championships are this Saturday (Nov. 5) at Pioneers Park in Lincoln, Neb. The meet, hosted by Nebraska Wesleyan University, will begin at 10:00 am with the JV race. The women’s 5K race will start at 10:45 am, with the men’s 8k race to begin at 11:30.
The women’s team race looks to be one of the tightest battles in recent years. Nebraska Wesleyan has won six consecutive GPAC team titles dating back to 2005. The Prairie Wolves, ranked 24th in NCAA III, will be severely challenged by several teams. Morningside is the 11th ranked team in the NAIA and is undefeated against GPAC teams this fall. Concordia, No. 15 in the latest NAIA poll finished just five points back of Morningside at the Mount Marty Invitational two weeks ago. Other teams that could challenge for a top finish include Dordt (#23 NAIA) and Northwestern (RV NAIA).
Individual runners expected to be at the front of the pack include 2010 GPAC Champion Michelle Steiger of Dordt, Concordia’s Sarah Kortze and Jenna Schwalenberg, Morningside’s pair of Jessica Weborg and Lydia Ford, Northwestern’s Teresa Kerkvliet and Nebraska Wesleyan’s Hannah Kinberg and Hayley Sutter.
While the Nebraska Wesleyan men have won five of the last six GPAC titles, several teams are expected to offer a stiff challenge for the Prairie Wolves, ranked 21st in NCAA III. Coming off a big win at the Mount Marty Invitational two weeks ago, the Concordia men have moved up to #19 in the latest NAIA National Poll. Morningside has also enjoyed a successful season and is currently ranked 25th in NAIA. Other teams expected to finish among the top teams include Dordt and Doane.
The top returning runner from the 2010 GPAC Championship is Concordia’s Colin Morrissey, the 2010 runner-up. Morrissey’s teammate Ben Sievert was the individual winner at the Mount Marty meet. Other runners expected to be among the leaders include Morningside’s Garrett Ehlers and Monte Larson, Dordt’s Ryan Tholen, Nathan Jackson and Jeremy Van Woerden, Leo Banales of Mount Marty, Doane’s Edwin Ronoh and Alex Schnell. Nebraska Wesleyan top runners this fall have been Mike Rathje and Ben Paben.