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Warriors continue upward trend in BVU Invitational

waldorf-warriors-outline_1By Matt Oliver

STORM LAKE – Continuing an upward trend, the Waldorf College men’s track and field team turned in three new school records during Saturday’s Buena Vista University Invitational.

The Warriors, who are in their second year of competition, are steadily progressing as they build on the successes of the program.

“Each weekend, we go out and compete and as these athletes get better they are laying a foundation for the future of this program,” Waldorf coach Kelsey Riggins said. “They are beating their own school records and personal-bests and know they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Records have fallen or been established in every meet this indoor season, which is providing excitement for the Warriors as they write the beginning chapters of school history.

“They take pride in what they do each weekend and know that being a part of this team in the first few years is something no one can take away from them,” Riggins said. “They have pride for the team and for the school.”

Mark Ahlers set a school record in the one-mile race, smashing his previous season-best time by 20 seconds as he raced to 10th place with a time of 4 minutes, 35.07 seconds.

“This is the third-best performance in our conference so far this season,” Riggins said. “Mark also came back and ran an extremely tough split in the 4×400-meter relay.”

Ahlers, a freshman from Sheldon, also ranks second in the 800 in the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) this season and is third in the 600.

Sophomore Caleb Gilbertson, Ahlers, junior Austin Anderson and freshmen Isaiah Craig turned in a school record for the Warriors while winning their heat of the 4×400 relay in 3:37.64. They eclipsed the previous record by one second.

“They ran a wonderful race,” Riggins said. “They wanted to go out and win their heat and they did just that. Each one of them did what they needed to do and their time reflected that.”

The 4×400 relay marked the final event for Waldorf, which defeated conference foe Dakota State University.

“The 4×400 relay was a very exciting way to end our day,” Riggins said. “The whole team was cheering on the relay and it was a fun environment.”

The Warriors fielded two other 4×400 relay teams. Juniors Korey Beaman, Ovan Garcia, freshmen Justin Jacobi and Eithan Esensee teamed up for a time of 3:48.99 in the event while sophomore Chasen Selsor, juniors Aaron Ward, Cassidy Warson and freshman Jimmy Blankenship finished in 3:53.17.

Demetrius Baker launched his way to a new school record in the weight throw as the freshman from Burlington surpassed the 40-foot barrier with a 12.21-meter (40-foot-0.75-inch) performance. Senior Isaiah Lufkin also recorded a personal-best, hitting 10.54 meters (34 feet, 7 inches) in the weight throw.

“They are learning so much each week, it is exciting to watch them throw each weekend,” Riggins said. “Coach [Ashley] Conway has seen some big throws from both of them in practice the last few weeks. Both of them have a lot of talent in this event.”

Freshman Alvyns Alcenord, Craig and freshman Jonah Remker each qualified for the 60-meter dash finals for the Warriors.

“This is a big step for our men’s sprints group,” Riggins said. “They scored quite a few points for the team with that race.”

Alcenord charged to fifth in the 60-meter dash finals, clocking a time of 7.25 seconds. Craig locked up seventh (7.38) and Remker crossed the finish line in eighth (7.40). Alcenord qualified sixth (7.28) in the preliminaries while Craig took seventh (7.29) and Remker qualified eighth (7.33).

“The 60-meter dash is a very challenging race. It is only about seven seconds long, but there is a lot of explosive effort that goes into that race and not much room for error,” Riggins said. “All three of them did a wonderful job.”

Two of Waldorf’s athletes have been battling injuries and were able to achieve success this weekend due to the assistance of athletic trainer Eliza Slanker, who put together a program to help them work their way back to competition.

Remker was back on the track after having issues with his quad. He looked strong in the 200, fighting his way to ninth (23.69) and was just .03 seconds shy of the school record held by Alcenord.

“He ran times similar to what he was running before he was injured,” Riggins said. “That is very promising for us and it is great to have him back in action with two more weeks of practice until the conference meet.”

Esensee ran season-best times in each of his events. Overcoming a nagging injury with Slanker’s help, Esensee sprinted to the finish line in the 60-meter dash in 7.84 seconds, closed out the 200 in 25.76 seconds and ran a strong 4×400 relay leg.

“Making those improvements in the 60-meter dash and 200 are really good signs coming into postseason competition,” Riggins said. “He also ran a nice 400 in one of the 4×400 relays. He has been having some hamstring issues on and off since cross country season and we are starting to see the benefits from his rehab with Eliza pay off as well.”

Craig, Gilbertson and Jacobi each had a very busy day. All three of them will compete in next weekend’s NSAA Indoor Championships & Multi.

Craig narrowly missed personal-best performances in three jumping events. The Apple Valley, Minnesota native earned runner-up honors in the triple jump at 12.52 meters (41 feet, 1 inch), claimed third in the long jump at 6.29 meters (20 feet, 7.75 inches) and also brought home third in the high jump with a 1.83-meter (6-foot) effort. Craig also had solid finishes in the 60-meter dash preliminaries and finals.

“Isaiah jumped very well and was close to his personal-bests,” Riggins said.

Gilbertson took fifth in the long jump, recording a distance of 6.16 meters (20 feet, 2.5 inches). He placed sixth in the high jump as he cleared 1.68 meters (5 feet, 6 inches). Gilbertson also competed in the shot put and pole vault.

“Caleb threw a personal-best in the shot put, high jumped close to his PR and got some great practice in the vault,” Riggins said.

Jacobi placed 15th in the long jump with a mark of 5.54 meters (18 feet, 2.25 inches). He secured seventh in the high jump at 1.68 meters (5 feet, 6 inches), finished 12th (9.34) in the 60 hurdles and also competed in the pole vault.

“Justin made some great technical improvements over the weekend in the long jump and ran a nice 60 hurdles,” Riggins said.

Senior Cody Clark went the distance to 13th (2:53.35) in the 1,000 despite running through discomfort. Blankenship posted a lifetime-best performance of 5:19.20 in the mile and came back with a solid 4×400 relay leg.

“Blankenship and Clark both ran really well in their respective races,” Riggins said. “Clark has been battling some foot pain and I have been impressed with his toughness throughout that.”

Sophomore throwers Darius McMillan and Raymond Browder were missing from action, along with freshman sprinter and hurdler Andre Davis. All three will return for the Warriors in the upcoming NSAA meets.

With NSAA competitions the next two weekends, Waldorf’s athletes are taking the necessary steps to ensure success.

“I talked with them all on the bus ride back about starting to prepare now, making sure they are eating right, drinking more liquids, getting their rest, seeing the athletic trainers as needed and doing what they need to do to make sure their bodies are in the best shape they can be in for the next two weeks,” Riggins said.

Craig, Gilbertson and Jacobi go to work in next weekend’s NSAA Indoor Championships & Multi at Jamestown, N.D. The two-day meet begins on Sunday at 11 a.m.

“Next weekend in Jamestown will be a very exciting time for our three multis,” Riggins said. “They all have unlimited potential and I can’t wait to see them out there competing.”

Following next weekend, the Warriors will shift their focus to the NSAA Indoor Championships on Feb. 19-20 at Brookings, South Dakota.