Coach Shroyer, seniors lead Dickinson State cross country to nationals

A year ago, the Dickinson State senior cross country class was shrouded in doubt. Margaret Martinez was recovering from a car accident, Jeffrey Segovia had just transferred in, Stormie Sickler was on a medical redshirt and Eddie Meneses wasn't to...

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Dickinson State head cross country coach Ben Shroyer coaches the men’s runners during the DSU Twilight Team Time Trials Sept. 3 at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

A year ago, the Dickinson State senior cross country class was shrouded in doubt.
Margaret Martinez was recovering from a car accident, Jeffrey Segovia had just transferred in, Stormie Sickler was on a medical redshirt and Eddie Meneses wasn’t too sure of how the new head coach would handle his team.
But the DSU men’s and women’s cross country teams have gone from uncertainty to victory.
The Blue Hawks, with the leadership of second year head coach Ben Shroyer, will run in the NAIA national meet today in Charlotte, N.C., through a “marshy” course after heavy rain, Shroyer said.
The men begin at 8:30 a.m., and the women run at 9:30 a.m.
Team chemistry has a lot to do with that, Shroyer said.
“We may not have the most talent or be the fastest out there, but I think that does go a long way when we start getting into races,” Shroyer said. “That really helps our performance on the field to an extent. That’s a special part of who we are and what we’re able to do.”
Even when Shroyer took over last season as the interim head coach, he said the goal was always to win a North Star Athletic Association team title.
Last season, only Austyn Copp qualified individually. This season, both teams won conference championships en route to NAIA national meet appearances.
It’s the first time ever for the women, by Shroyer’s account, and the first for the men since 2007.
“It’s been a few years for our school,” Shroyer said of having both teams go to nationals. “It’s very exciting. The kids are having a good time and having a good experience seeing what the better competition is like and just getting a feel for what it is to be the best at our level.”

However, Shroyer feels confident his team can measure up.
At the NSAA meet Nov. 8 in Madison, S.D., Copp was second in the 5-kilometer run by finishing in 19 minutes, 52.22 seconds. Brittney Grove’s time of 20:29.05 netted her seventh place, and Cristina Herrera’s mark of 20:53.55 was good enough for 10th.
In the men’s race, Segovia was second in the 8-kilometer race by finishing in 26:51.56. Delano Lilly (27:06.14) was third, Aidan Theard (27:15.48) was fourth, Meneses (27:56.07) was sixth and Tristen Guillot (28:09.61) was ninth.
“I’m definitely excited to run for these guys and with these guys,” Meneses said. “This is the best as it gets. Having it be a national meet, I don’t think it gets any better than that.”
The senior class, which stuck around through a coaching change, is the reason the team has any sort of experience, Shroyer said.
“They’re showing the others what they’re capable of, what they can do and what they can accomplish over four years,” Shroyer said. “We have seniors who have been here at Dickinson State for four years and leading, because we do have a young team.”
But a big part of that success, according to his runners, is Shroyer.
When Martinez was dealing with injuries after a car accident, she sent an email to Shroyer, not really sure if he would accept her onto the team.
But he did, and now Shroyer is one of Martinez’s favorite coaches she’s had.
“He’s been nothing but patient,” Martinez said. “He’s so supportive, even when I’m struggling. He always manages to bring out a smile no matter what pain I’m going through or how tired I am. He’s like our family here. He’s brought this team close.”
Surely, some patience was required when Shroyer began coaching. Meneses said it wasn’t a big change, but he was skeptical when he began training for Shroyer.
But the hours and dedication his coach put in for the team made Meneses want to follow suit.
“He’s always been a huge supporter of us,” Meneses said. “I appreciate Ben so much because I know the time and effort he puts into us. … That means a lot to me because that shows he truly cares.”
After coaching high school cross country in Ohio, Shroyer moved to Dickinson to be the Biesiot Activities Center coordinator.
He ran for NAIA Cedarville University in track and cross country for nationally-qualifying teams. He also qualified for the national meet individually.
“I love running, so obviously to get into coaching, stay in the sport and give back to what was given me to many years ago, I’ve been able to lead these kids and kind of be a mentor to them and guide their lives a little bit,” Shroyer said. “Running is a unique sport. Obviously it builds a lot of character and some of those qualities people don’t get in their lives if they’re not involved with sports and different things.”
Shroyer said he strives to instill a work ethic for his runners - a key reason the teams qualified and not just individuals.
“Our team culture is unmatched,” Shroyer said. “These kids really get along, and it really makes my job easier.”
Even though Meneses was an NAIA all-american in the track and field marathon, he said he is still a little bit awestruck by the talent he has seen in North Carolina in the days leading up to the meet.
But he said it’s a little bit easier with his teammates around him.
“It’s crazy and unpredictable every year,” Meneses said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. Going individually is cool and all, but having the team to take to nationals has always been the goal.”
While the Blue Hawks have worked hard to get to the national meet, Martinez admitted that it will feel special to end her collegiate career in such a way - especially considering where the Blue Hawks were two years ago.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m sad that it’s ending,” Martinez said. “But to end it with my team - my entire team, boys and girls - I’m happy it’s ending this way.”

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