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Kuik, Widener battle for Waldorf in Les Duke Invitational

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Matt Oliver

GRINNELL – Marissa Kuik and Marissa Widener continued to progress while battling for the Waldorf University women’s cross country team in Saturday’s Les Duke Invitational.

Kuik led the way for the Warriors as the freshman from Coon Rapids, Minnesota raced to 63rd place with a time of 27 minutes, 14 seconds on the 6K course at the Grinnell Golf & Country Club. Her performance ranks second in the school record books.

Widener, a freshman from Bridgeport, Nebraska, closed out the meet in 146th (30:16). It was the first 6K race for the Waldorf duo.

“The ladies played up to the challenge of going against the 6K instead of the 5K,” Waldorf coach Nathan Christianson said. “We just went out and competed against some tough competition, which included some top-notch NCAA Division III programs.”

Course conditions were less than ideal, but the Warriors pressed on throughout the race.

“I was really excited with how we competed,” Christianson said. “It was a pretty tough course. There was a lot of mud on the course.”

Transitioning to the 6K competition was an adjustment for Kuik and Widener. However, they gained experience in the process.

“I was pretty happy with the 6K,” Christianson said. “For those two, I think it’s going to be good for them at the end of the year.”

Just like every meet, the Les Duke Invitational serves as a building block for Waldorf’s runners as they prepare to make a push in the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Championships on Nov. 5 at Dickinson, North Dakota.

“It’s going to help Marissa Kuik be a little stronger when we get to the conference level and try to get a national berth,” Christianson said. “It’s a good tune-up for the Roy Griak Invitational in two weeks, which is another 6K.”

With back-to-back 6K meets this month, the Warriors will be up to the task when they head to the conference meet.

“I think with these two races being 6K, it’s going to help us be a little stronger for the conference meet when we drop down to 5K,” Christianson said. “I felt like the girls handled it well, and I think we’re going to have another good test for us to get stronger.”

NCAA Division III’s Wartburg College captured the team title, scoring 72 points. Cornell College (91) claimed second, and NCAA Division III’s No. 19 Carleton College (99) secured third. Dordt College (105), which is ranked No. 7 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) preseason poll, took fourth, while Grinnell College (140), Augustana College (151), the University of Dubuque (185), Central College (186), Monmouth College (196), Clarke University (262), Grand View University (294), Indian Hills Community College (345), Knox College (386) and Principia College (418) rounded out the team standings.

Cornell’s Abrah Masterson, who’s the defending NCAA Division III national champion, won the race in 23:22. Dubuque’s Fabiola Ortiz secured second (24:17).

Waldorf has two weeks off until its next meet and is adjusting its training regimen moving forward.

“I think for us, we are a little tired and beat up, so it will be nice for us to reenergize,” Christianson said. “Where we are at training wise, I think it’s going to be good.”

The Warriors will work on introducing speed during next week’s practices.

“We’re going to a 400-meter workout next week, so I think some of the kids are excited about that,” Christianson said. “I think next week is going to be a good training week for us to get better and rest injuries.”

Waldorf resumes the season on Sept. 24 in the Roy Griak Invitational, starting at 9:45 a.m. at Falcon Heights, Minnesota. The Warriors were without junior Charley Buddenhagen on Saturday, but she’s expected to return for the upcoming meet.

“Obviously with the ladies, we want to continue to get better,” Christianson said. “I think getting that first 6K, gaining some confidence and learning how to race is going to help us do a lot better. They’re really young and having Charley, who has run the race before, back in the lineup is going to help.”