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Warriors aim to contend for conference crown this season

By Aaron SchneiderWaldorf Warriors Logo

FOREST CITY – The Waldorf University men’s cross country team took home second place during the 2015 North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Championships and sent two individuals to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championships. This fall, the Warriors look to build on their success.

Last season, Dickinson State University ran away with the NSAA title after totaling a 24-point team score in the NSAA Championships at Madison, South Dakota. Waldorf claimed the runner-up spot with 71 points. The NSAA preseason coaches’ poll has the Warriors and the Blue Hawks battling for the top two again this year, but Waldorf is predicted to finish first. Waldorf earned 32 points and two first-place votes in the preseason poll while Dickinson State finished right behind the Warriors with 30 points and four first-place votes. The Warriors, who are pursuing a conference championship, expect the Blue Hawks to be a strong challenge.

“Our goal is to be in contention for the men’s conference title,” Waldorf coach Nathan Christianson said. “Dickinson State is the defending champ and the team to beat.  You always have to respect the defending champs.”

The University of Jamestown finished third in last fall’s NSAA Championships with 90 points, ahead of Viterbo University (92), Valley City State University (121) and Dakota State University (125).

Nathan Meiners closed out last season placing 291st in the national meet at Charlotte, North Carolina with an 8K time of 27 minutes, 56.4 seconds. The senior from Omaha, Nebraska is set to lead the way for the Warriors this year, but several runners have the potential to vie for the top spot.

“Nathan is a defending national qualifier and will be our field general on the course,” Christianson said. “I think we have more than one guy that can be our No. 1 guy during the season, but I think that makes our team versatile if someone has an off day.”

The Warriors bring back experience that will make them a viable threat in the conference. Seniors Aaron WardAdam BrinkmanOvan Garcia and junior Chasen Selsor expect to play leadership roles.

“We have some returners as well that can step up and have a major impact,” Christianson said. “Aaron, Chasen, Ovan and Adam have been leaders in and out of practice and will be a huge part of our success.”

Juniors Bryce ElmNic Ganzeveld and sophomore Marquis Cox join Waldorf after transferring from Iowa Central Community College. With collegiate experience already under their belts, they look to make an immediate impact on the Warriors.

“Nick and Marquis are nice new additions and definitely can do some things at the national level,” Christianson said. “Bryce, once he gets healthy again, should also be a major contributor as well.”

Andrew Murley joins the Warriors as the lone freshman and looks to make a long-term impact on the program once he gains experience at the collegiate level.

“Andrew, by the end of year, will be a big contributor as a freshman,” Christianson said.

Waldorf returns five runners who scored at the conference meet. Meiners chased down fifth (27:49.80) to earn all-conference honors. Ward ran to 19th (29:07.11), sophomore Mark Ahlers took 31st (30:38.82), senior Cassidy Warson placed 33rd (30:42.32) and Garcia pulled in 35th (31:04.47).

Other returners that represented the Warriors in the NSAA Championships last season include Brinkman, sophomores Jesse VegaAlden Zeller and Jimmy Blankenship.

Selsor joins the cross country team after competing for Waldorf in middle-distance track events this past spring.

“I think we have some other guys that may surprise people in November,” Christianson said. “I think our team doesn’t even know how good we can be.  We will know more about our team in late October as we start to adapt to my training.”

Christianson, who enters his first year with the Warriors after previously serving as assistant coach at NCAA Division II’s University of Southern Indiana, is working with his student-athletes as he implements his training regimen.

“The early part of the season will be getting used to my training,” Christianson said. “There will be a period of adjustment.  If everything goes well, I think we can do some big things at the conference and national levels.”

Waldorf begins its season this Friday in the 4th Annual Viterbo Night Flight at La Crosse, Wisconsin, starting at 8 p.m. With the race being shorter than the customary 8K distance, the Warriors will use the meet as a season tune-up.

“It’s a small low-key meet,” Christianson said. “Our goal is to train through this meet and have fun with it and use it for training.  Usually this time of year, the first meet is the hardest effort most teams have had in their training cycles. With the race being shorter for the men than the 8k distance, it’s a good chance to get their feet wet and find out where we are at.”

As the season progresses, the Warriors will continue to set their sights on the NSAA Championships, scheduled for Nov. 5 at Dickinson, North Dakota.

At season’s end, Meiners aims to make his return to Charlotte for the national meet. However, this time around, he’s hoping to have teammates joining him as first-time national qualifiers. Reaching that level is all about trusting in the process. Building toward the conference meet is a routine that runners familiarize with as they acquire more experience.

“We have a long time to go before the big meets,” Christianson said. “I like to keep the early part of the season relaxed since the season goes until the third week of November.  For freshmen, it can be a huge adjustment getting to November.”