BELLEVUE, Neb. -- The Bellevue University Athletic Department announced today that it will launch Men's and Women's Cross Country as new varsity intercollegiate sports beginning in the fall of 2018.
The cross country programs at BU will immediately join the University's other sports in the North Star Athletic Association which is comprised of institutions in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. NSAA schools currently offering cross country are Dakota State, Dickinson State, Jamestown, Valley City State, Viterbo, and Waldorf.
With the team set to debut in 2018, the Athletic Department wasted little time in getting the program off and running. Bellevue Athletic Director Ed Lehotak announced today the hiring of the program's first-ever head coach, Craig Christians. Christians comes to Bellevue University after a long and successful high school career coaching both track and cross country.
"I am excited to lead the program and join the excellent tradition of athletic success at Bellevue University," said Christians of becoming the first head coach of the BU cross country programs.
Lehotak said, "I'm very excited to be adding two more sports, men's and women's cross country, to the Bellevue University athletic department as we look to the future."
Lehotak went on to praise Coach Christians, saying, "I feel Craig is an excellent addition to the coaching staff. He brings a wealth of experience and success to a new program that is hard to match."
Bellevue will offer athletic scholarships to student-athletes for both the men's and women's programs. Interested recruits can contact Coach Christians via email at [email protected], by phone at 402.557.7155, or by filling out a prospective athlete questionnaire (Men's Prospective Athlete Questionnaire, Women's Prospective Athlete Questionnaire).
Christians comes to Bellevue following a 24-year stint at Bellevue West High School. For the past 12 years, Christians was the head boys and girls cross country coach for the Thunderbirds guiding the boys team to four top-10 finishes at the Nebraska Class A State Meet including a third and fourth place finish, respectively. He also twice led the girls team to the Nebraska Class A State Meet.
At Bellevue West Christians coached at least one individual state qualifier in 11 of 12 seasons while six individuals were state medalists under his tutelage, including the girls runner-up at the 2005 meet. He oversaw an average roster size of 43 student-athletes during his tenure.
Prior to serving as the head cross country coach at Bellevue West he was a volunteer assistant cross country coach for six seasons (1993-1998) and the assistant cross country coach for another six seasons (1999-2004). As an assistant he helped lead the boys team to a Class A Runner-Up finish in 1995, saw 10 of 12 teams qualify for the State Meet from 1999-2004, and mentored the Girls Class A Individual State Champion in 2001.
Coach Christians also has an extensive resume in coaching track and he's currently the assistant coach (distance runners) at Platteview High School. From 1994-2016 he was a member of the Bellevue West coaching staff, including serving as the head coach from 2007-2011 and directed the team to three Top-10 Finishes at the State Meet. He was a volunteer assistant (distance runners) for four years (1994-1997) and an assistant coach (distance runners) for a total of 14 years (1998-2006, 2012-2016). As an assistant he coached All-Class Gold Medalists in the girls 1600m (2006) and Class A Gold Medalists in the 3200m 4x800m (2002).
Christians earned his A.S. in Pre-Engineering from Willmar Community College in Willmar, Minn. In 1981 before going on to earn his B.S. in Civil Engineering from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. in 1983. He holds a M.S. in Municipal Engineering from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa which he earned in 1986.
Men's and Women's Cross Country will become the University's 11th and 12th sport offerings, respectively. Bellevue's other varsity sport programs include men's soccer, women's soccer, volleyball, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's golf, women's golf, softball, baseball, and eSports.