ORANGE CITY, Iowa – An experienced group of seniors are leading Northwestern’s cross country surge this season.
The Red Raiders men’s team, ranked seventh in the NAIA has a quartet of seniors leading the charge for a team that finished sixth last fall at the national meet for the highest finish in school history.
On the women’s side, senior Katie Bosch has been the front runner for not only the Great Plains Athletic Conference, but the former Ankeny High prep, was the highest finishing NAIA runner at the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational in late September.
Bosch, the individual race winner at last Saturday’s Briar Cliff Invitational run on under wet, muddy conditions at Adams Nature Preserve, has two wins this to go with a 12th at Griak and an eighth at the Augustana Twilight, both the latter two meets coming against NCAA competition.
“I’m glad we got it in, the sun came out that was wonderful,” said Bosch after the Briar Cliff race. “It was a little muddy in the middle mile. I think really as a team we wanted to stay mentally tough, we just pushed through it.
“I just kind of focused on just pushing through, I had a couple of times I wanted to hit and ultimately running for the team.”
Bosch finished in 18:45 over a course that was measured out at roughly 5,200 meters, a shade over the normal 5K distance after the course had to be altered a bit due to the heavy rains the region received in the days prior.
Bosch, named the GPAC Runner of the Week four times this season, was a three-time state qualifier at Ankeny, but said she feels that after battling a few injuries early in her collegiate career she feels healthy, and the results are proving it.
“Honestly, I never would have dreamed of it, never would have imagined it,” said Bosch of her collegiate success. “It’s just great coaches, just great teammates, God has been great. I battled through some injuries freshman and sophomore years. I have just been blessed with the opportunity to be healthy the last couple of years.”
Tanner Goetsch, the former four-time state qualifier from Spirit Lake, was the top collegiate finisher at the Briar Cliff Invite, running 25:46.19 over 8K.
Goetsch earlier this season led a 1-2-3-4 finish for the Northwestern senior quarter across the finish line at the Defender Classic on the same course the team will race to try and defend its GPAC title in early November.
Goetsch, along with seniors Peter Smith (Polk City, Iowa), Tim Rose (Iowa Falls, Iowa) and Hans Epp (Giltner, Neb.) have helped push the men’s squad to team titles this season at both the Defender Classic and the Briar Cliff Invitational while also being the second-highest finishing NAIA team at Griak.
“Starting out at Dordt when we took the top four spots was really big for us, built our confidence,” said Goetsch. “At Griak, not all of us ran tremendous, but we still ran really well. We had not our highest finish, but our lowest amount of points we ever scored, so things are looking up.”
Goetsch has clear goals when it comes to the rest of the season, which is down to just three meets for Northwestern -- the NAIA Seminole Valley Stampede in Cedar Rapids, the GPAC Conference Championships in Sioux Center and ultimately the NAIA National Championships in Fort Vancouver, Washington.
“Will get to race against some pretty good schools, one ranked ahead of us, that will be huge for us,” said Goetsch of the upcoming race in Cedar Rapids. “I know at nationals were going for it, we all have our mindset of going for it all. It doesn’t really matter what you go in ranked I don’t think, it’s whoever shows up on that day.
“We would like to win it all if we can.”
Bosch, who enjoyed her first national meet a year ago, is hoping this season that the team can qualify. It’s a big goal for the Red Raiders women’s squad, fresh into the NAIA rankings this week at No. 23, that has never qualified as a team in coach Scott Bahrke’s six seasons.
“I’m so proud of our team, we have a great group girls, that’s just been our team goal is to get to nationals as a team, just keep working together,” said Bosch. “As a senior, me and the other senior leaders really just want to leave an impact this year and get the whole team out to Vancouver.”
Northwestern is the fourth women’s team from the GPAC, joining Dordt, Morningside and Hastings, in the latest NAIA national rankings, making the push to nationals even tougher.
“I think we’re blessed with a very competitive conference,” said Bosch. “It makes us really work throughout the whole season knowing that we came from such a stacked conference.”