As the only seminary-sponsored team to compete in the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference, “Concordia Seminary Cycling” isn’t doing too badly.
The six-member team, in its second year, currently ranks 8th out of 15 Division 2 schools, according to Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, associate professor of exegetical theology at the St. Louis seminary and one of two faculty members who also race bikes and help with the team’s training.
In four races over two spring-break weekends in March, first-year student Matt Behrens — who’s new to the sport — came in fourth, seventh, tenth, and fifteenth in races with from 41 to 92 finishers per race. In fact, most members of the Concordia Seminary team performed better than half of the racers in each category, even though the seminary may be the smallest institution (in terms of enrollment) involved.
“The guys got a kick out of passing people from Illinois or Ohio State,” Kloha said. In one race, a team-trial event, the seminarians took second place overall, “a pretty big deal,” losing by 11 seconds to the University of Chicago but finishing “well ahead of” Michigan and Purdue teams, he said. “They were pretty excited about that.”
“I also received many comments from other racers and coaches about our guys — impressed that a team from a school they had never heard of had so many guys and did so well,” said Kloha. “One parent of a student from another school couldn’t believe that these were seminary students.”
While winning is gratifying, it’s not the only thing that keeps them pedaling, according to the team’s members.
“Going out to a collegiate cycling event is a blast,” said Matt Peeples, a fourth-year student from Kansas City. “And, it is an opportunity to witness to the people around us through our actions.”
Peeples, 27, said the cycling team “is a great way to deal with the pressures of school” and “get to know fellow students and professors better.”
And, “as a community, we are able to interact and share the love of Christ with the world around us.”
“A hobby like cycling is a great way to make connections,” echoed Behrens, a 33-year-old from Austin, Texas. “I enjoy riding with guys at the sem. Cycling has also been an open door for conversations with some of my unchurched neighbors and co-workers.”
First-year seminarian Kory Janneke, from Steeleville, Ill., says cycling “is a great way to either get in shape or stay in shape, and it’s something that you can do for most of your life.
“Pastors need to find ways to stay healthy and find stress relief,” says Janneke, 23. “I think that cycling will definitely help me with those goals after seminary.”
Fourth-year student Ryan Winningham, 27, from Ray, Mich., says the cycling team is one of the ways the seminary promotes holistic health.
“They have emphasized seminarians being healthy in body, mind, and spirit, as a whole human being, so that we might be better pastors in the future,” Winningham told Reporter. “I think the seminary sponsoring athletic teams like this promotes health among clergy and is an opportunity to grow healthy habits in guys while they are at the seminary.”
Bill Ondracka, 41, a second-year student from Belleville, Mich., says it’s an “awesome” experience to be on the cycling team, working with Professors Kloha and Dr. Robert Weise and fellow seminarians, who “worked together, and learned from each other, and … motivate each other.”
The team, he adds, “helps to promote better health, it helps to promote fellowship, and it helps to get our name [Concordia Seminary] out there. It allows others from different colleges to realize that pastors are people, too, and we can be competitive.”
Because the team doesn’t really have a budget, its members stay free with local LCMS congregations when they compete out of town. Recently they were hosted by St. Paul Lutheran Church families in Paducah, Ky., and slept in the kindergarten room at Peace Lutheran Church, Greencastle, Ind.
Not only does that arrangement save money, notes Kloha, but it enables the seminarians to “represent the seminary to local congregations and talk with the pastors about their work in those places.”
The Concordia Seminary Cycling team also is organizing the fifth annual Tour de Sem bicycle ride May 16. The 90-mile ride from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Columbia, Ill., to Altenburg, Mo., is open to “all friends of Concordia.” The $20 registration fee includes a T-shirt.
More information is available online (click here).
Posted April 1, 2009