A common refrain among the Hesston College cross country team is, “make good memories.” The women’s cross country team sure had that opportunity this past weekend in Fort Dodge, Iowa, as they competed in the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship race on Saturday. They finished the season with great individual performances and a 22nd place finish among a field that included 42 teams and more than 300 nationally competitive runners from 60 colleges across the country.
Sam Trejo led the team with a 19:42.7 time and a 60th place finish. She was followed closely with another sub-20 minute 5k from Sierra Broce (19:51.9, 71st place). The top five runners, Trejo, Broce, Sadie Winter, Kate Kilmer and Liz Miller all had fantastic runs to score for the Larks. Their 5k average time was 20 seconds higher than the team’s best, choosing the national championships to run their best meet of the season.
They were able to send off their legendary Hesston College coach, Gerry Sieber, with a fitting last competition and come home to Hesston College with their heads held high. “We wouldn’t be a team without Gerry,” said sophomore Sierra Broce. “With this being Gerry’s last season to coach, it got really emotional at times. You can really tell how much he cares about his team. He would go to the ends of the Earth for each one of us.” For Coach Sieber, this effort is the culmination of 49 years of coaching with 30 of them at Hesston College as both the cross country and track coach and previously the men’s soccer coach.
Saturday was a really special day for the Hesston College cross country teams. Running at the Bethel College Invitational just 15 minutes from campus allowed for strong local support and resulted in both teams earning the team victories. “The Bethel meet is like a home meet for us,” said Head Coach Gerry Sieber. “A good number of supporters and spectators, faculty, staff, students and parents were present.” This was the first time both teams swept the team victories at the same event.
The women really dominated their 5K race with 26 points. Samantha Trejo won the race with a 20:25.20 time. Sierra Broce finished third and Katelyn Kilmer (4th) and Sadie Winter (6th) rounded out the Larks in the top 10. Emporia State finished in 2nd to the Larks with 39 points with two NAIA schools in 3rd (Bethel – 79) and 4th (Oklahoma Wesleyan – 80).
The men’s team also put in a solid run as they won the team championship with 27 points. The 8K race saw Jonathan Landis finish second with a time of 28:44.92. Angus Siemens (6th), Lucas Schmucker (7th) and Brandon Kirby (9th) rounded out the top 10 for the Larks. Central Christian (33) and Oklahoma Wesleyan (70) finished second and third behind the Larks.
“It was nice for our runners to have the spectator support,” said coach Sieber. “It was a great environment, enhanced by the success of both teams. A great day for Hesston College, we are Lark strong!”
The Larks will next run at the Johnson County Community College Alumni Run on October 20.
by Mackenzie Miller ’18, Matthew Gerlach contributing writer
Runner’s World magazines dating back to the 1970s are piled high around his office. Team photos hang on the wall. And there, in the middle of all the memories, sits Gerry Sieber, reminiscing on his lifelong love for athletics and his 30 years at Hesston College, now coming to an end.
Sieber will retire after this year’s cross country season, but his coaching career at Hesston College goes far beyond that sport. Sieber has coached soccer, basketball, track and field and cross country. He has even taught wellness classes and served as athletic director for the college. The race has been long, but not without reward.
In 2015, Sieber was inducted into the NJCAA Soccer Hall of Fame as the longtime mentor of the Larks’ winningest program. in 23 seasons his teams tallied 247 wins and ten region titles, 22 players earned NJCAA All-American honors and Sieber was named Coach of the Year eight times. He says he draws on much more than strategy in the game.
“We had success, we won a lot of games, a lot of championships. But the thrill of getting a lot of students together was this idea of 11 becoming one. Winning was pretty important, but there are a lot of other things that make it meaningful: The growth of the players and the development of the whole person.”
Sadie Winter, a sophomore cross country runner, witnesses this daily.
“Gerry works very hard to build community and accountability within the team,” she says. “He wants the team to be connected and supportive. He doesn’t just work on improving our running, he also stresses the importance of academics, overall physical health and spiritual growth.”
Sieber has always stayed true to the idea of growth on and off the field, taking teams on service trips to Argentina and Puerto Rico and leading some of Hesston’s experiential learning trips to Arkansas and Colorado.
After graduating from Hesston College (‘64) and then Goshen College (‘66), Sieber headed to Tabor College (Hillsboro) to teach physical education and to coach. But after two years as a Tabor Bluejay, positions opened at Hesston College for a head soccer, basketball, and track coach. Sieber returned to his old stomping grounds to be a Lark.
“Because of my love for sports and playing, I was drawn into the vocation of coaching and teaching,” Sieber said. “The fact that I went to Hesston and had played sports at Hesston made this a natural progression.”
He dabbled in many sports while at Hesston, but Sieber calls soccer “his main sport.”
Coaching at Bethel College (North Newton) in between his time at Hesston College (1994 to 2009), Sieber continued to coach men’s soccer, started the women’s soccer program, coached track and field and launched the cross country team for the Threshers.
And that is where Sieber finds himself in his last coaching season: with the Hesston College men’s and women’s cross country team.
The Larks cross country team boasts a women’s group Sieber says is the strongest he’s ever had the privilege of coaching.
“This is my last coaching ‘dance,’” he said. “I haven’t told the team this, but I really want it to be a good dance. And I think it will be.”
When the season ends, Sieber will continue to stay active through racquetball, biking and swimming. He plans to spend time with family, travel and volunteer.
Summarizing 30 years of coaching at Hesston College and 49 years of coaching is not easily done, but Sieber continues to express his gratitude and humbleness to have had the opportunities to teach, coach and mentor young adults.
“I feel truly privileged, stretched, humbled and grateful for the opportunity to teach, coach, mentor and serve as a role model to young adults,” Sieber said.
“I am blessed to be the recipient of so many wonderful experiences with so many wonderful people. And to have been surrounded, supported and mentored with the communities I have been a part of. Thank you to my family, church, friends, the town of Hesston, the school’s alumni and faculty, staff and administrators.”
The 2017 Hesston College cross country teams are preparing and building off of the great momentum and excitement from last season. The women’s team competed in the NJCAA national tournament and have four of their top five runners returning. The focus has been to grow progressively and safely through the team’s summer base training, working specifically on various components of long distance running, endurance, speed, strength and flexibility.
The team has added nine new runners to the existing four returning women and six returning men. Coach Gerry Sieber is excited and says “How well we compete has to be measured with the fact that we compete against some NCAA II schools, against no JV teams and against, arguably, the strongest junior college region in the country!” He adds, “a point of emphasis is to create good, positive and supportive culture for the challenging and lengthy journey ahead for our team — the mental and psycho-socio aspects of our sport. We will be Lark strong.”
The Hesston College cross country team is once again being recognized for earning a team academic award, just like they have every year for the previous six years that Gerry Sieber has been coaching. The fall 2016 men’s cross country team is ranked first nationally in the cross country academic team standings with a 3.911 GPA, and the women’s team is ranked eighth with a 3.755 GPA.
Rankings are based upon teams that nominate at least five members for Academic All-American honors.
Since the cross country program’s start in 2010, the men have finished in the top ten every year and the women close behind, finishing in the top ten three times in all seven years. However, Sieber doesn’t feel like he can be attributed for these impressive high-academic standards.
“I don’t feel like I can take much credit for it,” Sieber said. “It’s remarkable and I’m proud of this fantastic achievement. It feels good for them to have this kind of success.”
Not only does this accomplishment mean a lot to Sieber and the team, but also to the Hesston College community.
“Our athletic department and Hesston College community are extremely proud of this accomplishment by the cross country team and Coach Sieber,” said Athletic Director, Rob Ramseyer. “They exemplify what we hope for and expect out of our athletic teams through their positive impact in their sport and in our community.”
For the Larks, being a student athlete requires a lot of balance and time management. Members of each team not only participate in their sport and attend classes, but also might have campus jobs, serve as resident assistants, ministry assistants, student ambassadors, or participate in music, theatre or clubs. Taking all these factors into consideration, makes this achievement all the more remarkable.
“I think it’s a reflection of the culture on the campus of Hesston College and on the culture that we have created in our cross country program that values academics,” said Sieber. “Everyone on Hesston’s campus has contributed to our runners’ success.”
On Nov.12, the Hesston College women’s cross country team gathered for their last huddle at the 2016 NJCAA Division I Cross Country Championship. Just like every other huddle that season, they “flapped their wings” as they ran into the huddle at coach Gerry Sieber’s command, “Larks fly home.”
“They were excited to be there,” said Sieber. “I can only describe it as a sacred moment watching them do our ritual after the race, to see them interact and celebrate with nothing but joy at the end.”
The team competed well, ending up 29th out of 37.
“It was a great ending for the women after the rigors and challenges of their three-month cross country journey, including the 750 miles they’ve run, endless hours of training, injury and competitive challenges,” said Sieber.
Freshman Sierra Broce (Goddard, Kan.) finished as Hesston’s number one runner, as she has done all year except once, placing 127th overall with a time of 20:49. Team co-captain, sophomore Renee Buckwalter (Wellman, Iowa), came in second to Broce with her best time of the year, 21:14. Freshmen Sadie Winter (Newton, Kan.), Katelyn Kilmer (Goshen, Ind.), Savannah Bontrager (Milford, Neb.), and sophomore Eva Dwyer (Goshen, Ind.) followed. Out of the eight women on the team, Sieber was only allowed to take six, and two of the eight were dealing with health issues.
“It was a very exciting atmosphere,” said Buckwalter. “We were racing with some of the best runners in the nation which was a little intimidating and nerve-racking, but also a lot of fun.”
It was a beautiful day for running, still and cool, in El Dorado, Kan. Fifty schools and 315 runners gathered from across the country to run their last race of the season. The challenging course was familiar to the women; they had competed there earlier in October to earn a trip to the 2016 NJCAA Division I XC Championship, and now here they were.
During the previous meet in October, hosted by Butler Community College, the team struggled to compete due to record high temperatures and gusty winds. This time, the team surpassed their goal of placing between 30th and 35th.
This was the first year that the meet has ever been held in Kansas, a location chosen because of its centrality. The NJCAA Division I Men’s & Women’s Cross Country Championship is an open meet where any team can go, but Gerry Sieber, who has been coaching the cross country team for seven years, said this is the first year Hesston has sent a full team.
“We’ve maybe been overly cautious about not abusing the privilege,” Sieber said. “In some ways we were running for the previous teams that could’ve done well and missed the opportunity.”
Sieber felt that this team was more than deserving to go.
“At the end of any season, athletes get burned out,” he said. “But I was pleased with the focus, energy, and strong commitment the girls had all the way until the end.”
Sieber likes to describe this team’s season as a journey. He refers to the quote, “If you don’t enjoy the journey, chances are you won’t enjoy the destination.”
He also emphasized that not all his goals for this season were related to performance.
“These six women have shown incredible resilience and growth this season, proving to be physically and mentally empowered,” Sieber said. “This group of women might be as tight as any group we’ve had, and I’m glad they could take away friendships and strong relationships from this journey.”
After the team ended their journey and ran their final course, for the last time, they “flew out” of the huddle. The sendoff? “Larks fly away.”
The Hesston College women’s cross country team concluded their long fall season in El Dorado (Kan.) at the 2016 NJCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country Championship, finishing 29th out of 37 teams.
More than 300 runners representing more than 50 schools competed at the meet hosted by Butler County Community College. Freshman Sierra Broce (Goddard, Kan.), as she has all year except once, was Hesston’s top runner finishing 127th in a time of 20:49 on the challenging course – Prairie Hills Golf Course. Team co-captain Rene Buckwalter (Wellman, Iowa) ran her best race of the year and was The Larks second runner at 21:14, good for 166th. Following closely and finishing next among Larks runners was freshman Sadie Winter (Newton, Kan. – 21:35/188th) and Katelyn Kilmer (Goshen, Ind. – 21:47/202nd). Freshman, Savannah Bontrager, (Milford, Nebraska) who ran her best race of the year was the Larks 5th runner (23:45/269th) and was followed closely by sophomore team co-captain Eva Dwyer (Goshen, Ind. – 24:10/281st).
“After nearly 1,000 miles traveled and a grueling three months of summer preseason, it was good to see these runners finish with respectable results,” Coach Gerry Sieber commented. “I thought that our women ran very well at the national meet.”
After competing well against all Kansas junior colleges in the Region VI meet – a meet that included as many as eight nationally ranked teams – the Hesston College women’s cross country team is headed to the NJCAA National Cross Country Championship at El Dorado, Kan. on Saturday, November 12. The women will run their grand finale race of the 2016 season of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) at 11 a.m. on the Prairie Trails Golf Course at 1100 Country Club Lane, El Dorado. A men’s 8k championship race will follow at noon.
As many as 300 runners from as many as 60 junior colleges across the country are expected to participate in the national meet. The six Hesston runners are Savannah Bontrager, Milford, Neb., Milford High School; Sierra Broce, Goddard, Kan., Eisenhower High School; Renee Buckwalter, Wellman, Iowa, Iowa Mennonite School; Eva Dwyer, Goshen, Ind., Northridge High School; Katelyn Kilmer, Goshen, Ind., Northridge High School; and Sadie Winter, Newton, Kan., Newton High School.
The Hesston College men’s and women’s cross country teams participated in the Region VI meet this past weekend in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The men finished 13th of out 16 schools and the women finished ninth of 11. “This was an extremely talented field of runners as seven or eight of the schools at the meet are, or have been, ranked in the top 25 at some point this fall,”, Coach Gerry Sieber commented. “I was pleased with how we competed.””
Freshman Sierra Broce (Goddard, Kan.) paced the Lark women, finishing in 20:50 on the 5k course – 26th place. Freshmen Sadie Winter (Newton, Kan. – 49th/21:55), Katelyn Kilmer (Goshen, Ind. – 52nd/22:02.29) and Savannah Bontrager (Milford, Neb. – 64th/24:32) and sophomore Renee Buckwalter (Wellman, Iowa – 51st/22:02.27) also scored for the Larks with sophomore Eva Dwyer (Goshen, Ind. – 66th/25:03) rounding out the team.
Sophomore Kyle Good (Harrisonburg, Va.) led the Lark men, finishing the 8k course in 30:23, good for a 62nd place finish, followed closely by sophomore Wyatt Baer (Marshallville, Ohio – 70th/30:59) and freshman Luccas Schmucker (Hesston – 72nd/31:08). Freshmen Angus Siemens (Newton, Kan. – 82nd/31:54), Andre Eanes (Harrisonburg, Va. – 92nd/32:50), Dillon Unruh (Wilmore, Kan. – 94th/33:28) and Kyle Stucky (Moundridge, Kan. – 99th/34:55) and sophomore Jonah Short-Miller (35:30) also competed.
The Lark women will run at the NJCAA National Cross Country Championship Meet November 12 in El Dorado, Kan. The meet is hosted by Butler County Community College.
The Hesston College men’s and women’s cross country teams participated in their fourth meet of the season Saturday, Oct. 8, making a statement at the Bethel College Invitational.
The Lark women handily won the team competition and had the second fastest 5K average time for the top five runners in the history of Hesston women’s cross country, now in the seventh year. Sierra Broce paced the Larks, finishing first overall with a time of 20:21, her lifetime best. Sadie Winter (21:04.26) finished fourth, Rene Buckwalter (21:25, 7th) and Katelyn Kilmer (22:28, 9th) rounded out the top 10 for Hesston College. Other runners who helped lead the Larks to the title were: Eva Dwyer (22:56, 12th), Savanah Bontrager (24:09, 15th) and Becky Jensen (25:00, 16th).
Wyatt Baer led the men’s team, finishing sixth in the 8K race with a time of 29:02. Kyle Good (29:12, 7th) and Luccas Schmucker (29:18, 8th) also finished in the top 10 for the Larks. Angus Siemens (30:01, 12th), Andre Eanes (30:41, 14th), Avery Pike (30:48, 15th), Jonah Short-Miller (31:32, 17th), Dillon Unruh (31:50, 18th) and Kyle Stucky (34:03, 20th) rounded out the Larks team. All of the Hesston College runners ran personal record times at Bethel.
“It was a good day for Hesston College cross country” Head Coach Gerry Sieber commented. “In spite of the limited number of participating schools (4), our runners brought some good focus and a good effort which resulted in some really good individual and team performances.”
The cross country teams look to continue strong performances when they race again Oct. 17 in El Dorado at the Butler Community College Invitational. The women’s starts at 4 p.m., followed by the men’ race at 4:45.
The Hesston College men’s and women’s cross country teams participated in their third meet of the season Friday, Sept. 23, at the Tabor College Invitational Marion Reservoir, just outside of Hillsboro, Kan., and showed quite well.
The Lark men finished fourth out of seven and only six points out of third. Wyatt Baer finished 21st with a 31:13 time on the 8K course, followed by three freshmen – Angus Siemens (31:40), Avery Pike (31:49) and Andre Eanes (32:29) who finished 26th, 27th and 31st respectively. Jonah Short-Miller (38th, 33:01) and Dillon Unruh (40th, 33:38) also competed for the Larks.
Hesston’s women also finished fourth (out of six) only one point behind McPherson College. The women had three runners who medaled, finishing in the top 15 places. Sierra Broce (Goddard, Kan.) led the team with a seventh place finish on a 21:26 time for the 5K race. Sadie Winter (21:45) and Rene Buckwalter (21:46) finished 12th and 13th, just one second apart. Eva Dwyer (29th, 24:24) and Savannah Bontrager (31st, 24:55) rounded out the Hesston team.
“Coming off of two weeks of hard training, this was a good result for our team,” said Coach Gerry Sieber. The McPherson College Bulldogs took the overall men’s title, the women’s title going to Dodge City.
Cross country will have a weekend off before running again at Bethel College Invitational Oct. 8. with races at 10 (women) and 10:45 a.m. (men).
The Hesston College men’s and women’s cross country teams participated in their second meet of the season Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Hastings (Neb.) College Bronco Stampede.
Hesston College was one of two juco schools at the event, the other competing schools being NCAA D3 or NAIA. The Lark men finished 5th out of 6 schools and the women placed 6th out of 7. Freshman Sierra Broce (Goodard, Kan.) ran well placing 22nd overall with a substantial time improvement over her first race. On the men’s side, sophomore Kyle Good (Harrisonburg, Va.) ran a strong race, his first of the season, finishing 23rd overall.
“This was a good meet for our team. All of the teams were new colleges we had not run against previously this year and will not likely see them again. It’s good to see and run against teams we seldom see as opposed to running against the same teams over and over.” Coach Sieber said.
Cross country will return for their third meet Friday, Sept. 23, at the Tabor College Invitational.
The Hesston College men’s and women’s cross country teams opened the 2016 fall season Friday night, Sept. 2, at the Twilight Classic in Hutchinson, Kan.
Freshman Sadie Winter (Newton, Kan.) paced all Hesston runners with a three-mile (4.83km) time of 20:28.2, good for 22nd overall. Renee Buckwalter (Wellman, Iowa – 57th), Eva Dwyer (Middlebury, Ind. – 84th), Becky Jensen (Wichita, Kan. – 94th) and Savannah Bontrager (Milford, Neb. – 96th) also finished for the Larks.
On the men’s side, sophomore, Wyatt Baer (Marshallville, Ohio) led the Larks with a four-mile time of 23:30.2, 64th overall, followed closely by Luccas Schmucker (Hesston, Kan. – 65th) and Angus Siemens (Newton, Kan. – 66th). Andre Eanes (Harrisonburg, Va. – 92nd), Avery Pike (Ellinwood, Kan. – 97th), Jonah Short-Miller (Bellingham, Wash. – 101st), Dillon Unruh (Willmore, Kan. – 108th) and Keegan Cook (Whitewater, Kan. – 109th) rounded out the Larks squad. The men’s team placed 14th in a 15-team field.
The Larks next meet is Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Bronco Stampede/ Hastings (Neb.) College (Elks Country Club).
Hesston College women’s cross country coach Gerry Sieber announces Sierra Broce, a senior at Eisenhower High School, Goddard, Kan., as the newest addition to the Larks program.
Named MVP as a senior, Broce served as team captain in 2015. A three-time all-league runner and state cross country meet qualifier, Broce helped her team qualify for a pair of state meets.
“I’m excited Sierra has chosen to join our cross country family,” Sieber said. “She has competed very well in meets with 4A, 5A and 6A schools in both track and cross country. With that experience, coupled with her vivacious spirit, I expect Sierra will be a real asset for our team.”
Broce will study elementary education and youth ministry at Hesston. She is the daughter of Kevin and Kelli Broce, Goddard.
Hesston College women’s cross country coach Gerry Sieber announces Savannah Bontrager, Milford, Neb., Kate Kilmer, Goshen, Ind., and Sadie Winter, Newton, Kan., as the newest additions to the Larks program. All three student athletes are Hesston College legacy students.
“Savannah, Kate and Sadie are all from excellent high school programs,” Sieber said. “They’re student athletes of high integrity with strong running backgrounds who I expect will make immediate contributions to our campus community.”
Bontrager is three-year letter-winner in both cross country and track under Milford High coach Michele Kontor. She’s a two-time Academic all-State performer and four-year Honor Roll student.
“Savannah shows strong resolve and commitment,” Sieber added. “She has improved each year and I expect her to keep getting stronger.”
Bontrager attends Bellwood Mennonite Church, Milford. She is the daughter of Craig and Karen Bontrager, Milford.
Kilmer, an all-conference runner in cross country and track, is a three-year varsity runner for Northridge High coach Ryan McClane. Northridge Cross Country has qualified for the state tournament in each of Kilmer’s seasons with the team.
A four-time Scholar Athlete and High Honor Roll student, Kilmer will study nursing at Hesston. She attends Bonneyville Mennonite Church, Bristol, Ind.
“I expect Kate to lead by example and be an empowering teammate,” Sieber said. “She has great charisma and will be a dynamic leader for us.”
Kilmer is the daughter of Kevin and Karilyn Kilmer, Goshen.
A two-time all-Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League runner, Winter adds another high-academic student athlete to coach Sieber’s roster. A 2013 state qualifier in cross country, she was a part of two (2013, 2015) Newton High track teams that captured regional championships under coach Richard Mick.
Winter is a National Honor Society member and Honors Scholar. She will study biomedical engineering at Hesston. She attends Grace Community Church, Newton.
“Sadie is an outstanding student and will add a great deal to our roster,” Sieber said. “She’ll lead by example and will undoubtedly have a tremendous Hesston Experience.”
Winter is the daughter of Juli and Perry Winter, Newton.