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Meiners, Ramirez-Paez qualify for nationals

By Aaron Schneider

MADISON, S.D.  – The Waldorf College men’s cross country team charged to a runner-up finish in Saturday’s North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Championships.

Nathan Meiners and Luis Ramirez-Paez led the Warriors and punched their tickets to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championships.

“This team has had a season for the history books,” Waldorf head coach Kelsey Riggins said. “Qualifying individuals for the NAIA national meet and finishing in the top two at the NSAA meet have been team goals from the beginning. The men have each been working toward what they achieved all season.”

Meiners battled to fifth as the junior from Omaha, Nebraska turned in an 8K time of 27 minutes, 49.8 seconds. Ramirez-Paez, a freshman from San Antonio, locked up eighth (28:06.32).

“Nathan and Luis have been running great for us all season and have had their sights set on qualifying for the national meet since August,” Waldorf associate head coach Corey Bins said. “Day in and day out, they showed up ready to put the work in to prepare themselves to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Waldorf’s Cody Clark claimed 10th (28:21.98) to earn all-conference honors alongside Meiners and Ramirez-Paez. Junior Aaron Ward secured 19th (29:07.11) and freshman Mark Ahlers took 29th (30:38.82) to add the final team score.

“It was a very proud coaching moment for our coaching staff. Each one of the men ran for the team, they ran for points and places,” Riggins said. “They worked well as a team when it mattered the most.”

Also running for the Warriors was junior Cassidy Warson in 31st (30:42.32), junior Ovan Garcia in 33rd (31:04.47), freshman Jesse Vega in 39th (32:09.5), freshman Eithan Esensee in 40th (32:17.08), senior Adam Brinkman in 46th (33:15.14), Alden Zeller in 49th (34:12.21) and freshman Jimmy Blankenship in 52nd (35:50.05).

Dickinson State University, which is receiving votes in the latest NAIA poll, won the conference championship with 24 points. Waldorf scored 71 points to finish ahead of the University of Jamestown (90), Viterbo University (92), Valley City State University (121) and Dakota State University (125).

Battling the competition, the Warriors supported each other and persevered to the finish.

“We had a few guys struggle, but there were other guys right there to pick it up for them and that is the sign of a good team,” Bins said. “This is a great starting point for our program as we work toward building this team into a consistent contender.”

The meet was the final race for Brinkman and Clark, who concluded solid careers. They helped solidify the foundation of Waldorf’s program and served as examples to their younger teammates.

“They have both made such a great impact on this program,” Riggins said. “They are both great leaders, both on the cross country course and in the classroom. They are both great examples of the type of student-athletes that we want graduating from our institution. They will do great things for us this coming track season.”

Meiners and Ramirez-Paez are Waldorf’s first national qualifiers since 2012 and will run in the NAIA National Championships on Nov. 21 at Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Running at the national meet will be a great experience for Nathan and Luis,” Riggins said. “It will also be great to have our program on the national stage.”