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Zeis

Lexi Zeis is a three-time national champion and 12-time All-American at the University of Mary. The Bismarck High product competes in her final college meet this weekend in Charlotte, N.C.

Lexi Zeis' list of accomplishments reads like something out of a Wikipedia page.

School-record holder, conference champion, region champion, All-American, national champion ... the achievements go on and on. By any measure, it's been a brilliant career for the Bismarck High graduate.

 Now Zeis, a brand new University of Mary graduate, wants to go out in style this weekend at the NCAA Division II national championships in Charlotte, N.C.

Zeis, a three-time national champion and 12-time All-American, has a sense of satisfaction but is far from satisfied.

"In January it hit me a little bit that this was my last ride, so to speak, but you try not to dwell on that too much. I think for me, I've just tried to enjoy this season. Enjoy being with my teammates and try to take advantage of every opportunity to compete," Zeis said. "More than anything, I'm just thankful that the University of Mary gave me this opportunity and I've just tried to make the most of it."

Nobody can debate that point.

Zeis owns four school records -- 5,000- and 10,000-meter outdoors and 3,000 and 5,000 indoors. Her national titles came in cross country (2015) and twice in the 5K indoors (2017-18).

University of Mary head coach Dennis Newell, who led the Marauders to a runner-up finish at cross country nationals in the fall and a fourth-place at indoor nationals in March, says Zeis ranks among the top Marauders ever.

"It's one of those debates like LeBron vs. MJ. It's hard to compare different eras, different events, different coaches, but there's no question Lexi is one of the best athletes to ever walk through the doors at the University of Mary," Newell said. "We've had great athletes here. You'd have to put Mel Agnew, Jen Agnew, Jamey Mulskey, Mandy Schroeder and Lexi all in the conversation.

"They're all hall-of-famers."

Zeis had a good high school career for the Demons, but she really took off in college.

"She certainly has all the attributes great runners have, but a lot of things go into whether someone is going to be successful or not," Newell said. "Some of it is luck, some of it is staying healthy, some of it is being mentally tough. All those things matter.

"And a lot of it is fit. Lexi chose to come to the University of Mary. She's very happy and proud to be here and she's bought into what we do."

Zeis, who graduated in April with a degree in athletic training, said it has been an ideal fit with Newell.

"I needed someone who was going to push me hard, but at the same time coach Newell doesn't think of you as just an athlete, he genuinely cares about you as a person," Zeis said. "If you have a bad workout, he wants to sit down and talk about it. And with him being a young coach he can relate to what's going on in your life.

"He and coach (Mike) Thorson believe in doing big things. They truly know their stuff. As athletes here we're very fortunate to have great coaches."

Zeis said she, "never really was a strong runner for outdoor track." Yet she's ranked third in the 10K, which will be run Thursday. The 5K is Saturday, she's seeded 11th in the race.

Like many top athletes, Zeis has been motivated by her failures as much as her successes. She also learned to dial it down a notch after suffering a stress reaction in her shin during her sophomore season.

"My freshman year I missed qualifying for outdoors in the 1,500 by one person and in the 10K by two people and that really motivated me going into my sophomore year," she said. "Running in college, like in life, there are big rollercoasters. I tried to use my low points to get to my high points and so I wouldn't necessarily say one thing stands out to me more than the other, it's just the mindset of trying to always get better and not letting something sidetrack you from achieving your goal."

Zeis will continue to run competitively after her college career ends, but she's focused on enjoying her final meet as a Marauder.

"To be able to go to Charlotte with my teammates and friends, it's going to be another great experience," she said. "I guess you might say as one chapter ends another begins, but this certainly has been a great chapter of my life."

Bad Break

Junior Derek Meyers, the NSIC champion in the 10K, will miss nationals due to a leg injury.

Meyers was seeded 13th in the event, which was to be his debut at nationals.

"It's too bad for him. He's had a great season," Newell said.

There will still be plenty of Marauders in action, however.

Jaiden Schuette, a two-time All-American, will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Century High graduate is seeded 13th.

Freshmen Taylor Hestekin (800) and D'Andra Morris (triple jump) will be competing at outdoor nationals for the first time.

Bree Erickson is qualified in the 1,500.

The Marauders are seeded seventh in the 1,600 relay with Julia Hammerschmidt, Nicolyn Brown, Abbey Zastrow and Nelecia Richards. The Marauders took fourth in the 1,600 at indoor nationals.

Josh Lamers represents the Marauder men. A transfer from LSU, Lamers is seeded 10th in the 110 hurdles and won the event at the NSIC two weeks ago in Winona, Minn.

"It's a neat track. We've been there before," Newell said. "Looks like there might be some stormy weather but after our conference meet, that's not going to mess with us."

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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