Ripon Christian senior Nick Ochoa is ready to get back on the track after dedicating much of his high school life on the football field.
Despite not competing in the sport the past few years, he has managed to land a spot on the Dordt University track team. He has accepted a partial scholarship, which can eventually grow as his times improve.
“I’m grateful to have an opportunity to run track at the collegiate level,” Ochoa said. “I started track in the sixth grade but stopped in eighth grade because we don’t have it here at RC.
“After this past season I thought I was kind of done with football because I have done it for so long and the college level is completely different. I thought it would be cool to get back into track and do it all over again.”
Ochoa mostly played at linebacker for Ripon Christian’s football program and was also used at fullback as an upperclassmen. He previously ran track with the Mountain House Jr. Mustangs, competing in the 400-meter dash, 800 and 1,500. He qualified for the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics in 2017 and 2018, totaling one gold-medal finish, two silvers and three bronzes. His personal records — 58.93 seconds in the 400 and 2 minutes, 25.54 seconds in the 800 — from those days were enough to convince Dordt coach Craig Heynen to take a flier on Ochoa.
“It’s real exciting, because I really liked doing track and it sucked not getting to do it in high school,” Ochoa said. “I’ve already started training for the spring season next year. Hopefully it will pay off.”
Dordt is a Christian college in Sioux Center, Iowa and has a long-established pipeline to Ripon Christian. Among the student-athletes joining Ochoa from the class of 2021 are Lukas Van Groningen (volleyball) and Elle Van Wyngarden (soccer).
And it turns out Dordt has a competitive track program. This past year, the men’s team captured its first indoor championship in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and finished as the runner-up in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship. For the outdoor campaign, they took second in the GPAC finale and 14th out of 102 schools represented in the NAIA Championships.
Ochoa plans to major in business.
“It feels good to go to a team that already has a good set of runners on their roster and I’m just hoping I can help further better the team,” he said. “It’ll be cool compete in all those different competitions at a higher level.”