(Ann Arbor, MI) The Concordia cross country teams will start their 2017 campaign this Friday, August 1st at the Golden Grizzly open hosted by Oakland University. The women's 4K will begin at 4:30 with the men's 6K scheduled to start at approximately 5pm. Head coach Jamie LaBrosse enters his 5th season with the team in what could be their best year to date.
The women's team took home a 7th place finish in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) meet last year. Stephanie Johnson led the Cardinals with a 4th place finish and a time of 18:34.4 in the final meet. Johnson qualified for her 2nd consecutive NAIA Cross Country Nationals, where she broke her personal record and own school record with a time of 17:47.17. This record breaking time earned her a 26th place finish and All-American honors.
Along with Johnson, Coach LaBrosse will look to veterans Amber Streeter (SO/Bay City, MI) and Courtney Dykema (SR/Birch Run, MI) for consistency and competiveness at each meet. Streeter and Dykema both set personal bests last season with times of 20:50.32 and 19:52 respectively Gabby Porter and Abigail Bentz (FR/Fort Wayne, IN) are two rookies that will make an immediate impact. Porter and Bentz come from respectable high school programs and bring a successful background to the Cardinals. A core group of experienced runners and talented freshman make for a goal of a top 3 finish in the WHAC this season. Coach LaBrosse feels as if this is one of his best teams he has had in his 5 year stint at Concordia and has confidence they can reach the NAIA Nationals as a team.
On the men's side, Nate Heierman (SR/Clarkston, MI) led the Cardinals a year ago in the WHAC meet with a personal best time of 27:17.0 in the 8K. The men's team will look to lean on the continued improvement of the 8 returners this year and place in the top half of the WHAC standings.
Coach LaBrosse believes the incoming freshman will also be a huge asset to the improvement of this year's team. Roth Thoms (FR/Flat Rock, MI) is a freshman that is expected to make an immediate impact. Thoms has looked strong in the training sessions so far and will compete with Heierman for the team's top finisher on a weekly basis. Ian Hay (FR/Canton, MI) is a local product of Plymouth Christian Academy that will add depth to the Cardinals roster.
After the Golden Grizzly open, the Cardinals will travel to Grand Rapids, MI to compete in the Calvin Knight Invite. Concordia will compete in 6 events in preparation for the WHAC Championship held in Grand Rapids, MI in hopes for a bid to the NAIA National Championship. Coach LaBrosse has highlighted the Spartan Invite and the Greater Louisville Classic as races where the Cardinals have the opportunity to compete on a national level. These meets attract teams of all levels from all over the country. Preparing for and competing in these high profile meets give the Cardinals the mental edge to race with confidence in the WHAC meet.
Joining LaBrosse's coaching staff this year will be former college standout Dakota Tell. We are excited to have someone of Coach Tell's pedigree on our staff this year. She will be a great addition to the program as she will be able to relate to the student-athletes when it comes to both academics and training.
Tell graduated from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa this past May, where she was one of Wartburg's top runners for cross country and track and field while leading the program to a NCAA DIII Women's Outdoor Track and Field National Championship. Tell earned All-American Honors in the indoor distance medley relay as an anchor in the mile.
"I'm really excited to begin this new chapter of my life at Concordia to help the athletes become not only better runners, but strong leaders as well. I love helping others and this position give me the opportunity to do that every single day."
The team will be led by captains Nate Heierman, Joseph Brinton (SR/Portland, OR), Brandon Binkowski (SR/Fraser, MI) with Stephanie Johnston (SR/Brantford, ON ), Courtney Dykema, and Katherine Fowler (SR/Blissfield, MI) leading the way for the women.