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Beyond Football: On the Oregon Trail



Summer has dawned(!) but as we have the unofficial start to the free season this weekend I think that it would be an error to not give a nod to something that I still haven’t wrapped my head around - how good NDSU is at it’s throwing sports. Whether it be the Javelin, Discus, or Shot put the school has managed to successfully recruit & train men and women who can do it as well as anyone in the nation, and better than most!

As I discovered while doing the Bison Bracket, the school has a long history of success in the Track and Field events. Some may put an asterisk next to the history because so many of the records were set and championships were won in the division two era. On the contrary, I don’t think that the level of competition should be a black mark against those accomplishments. Without all that ground work, today’s elite performers may not have come to NDSU. Certainly would not have had those benchmarks to reach & rewrite.

What’s better is that it’s not a one year, lighting in a bottle type situation. Over the last three years the men’s team had a pair of finishers qualify as All Americans in the outdoor events. Not to be out done, the women have had 21 All American level athletes between 2009 - 2017. Once the latest seasons are complete it seems all but certain that both of the record books will be etched with new names, or at least more names. Those young men and women may also bring the distinction of accomplishments that have yet to be reached by NDSU’s competitors in the current era.

Alyssa Olin may be the most well known name amongst the bunch. With the success she’s had this year, the recognition is well deserved. Coming from Mott, North Dakota and becoming one of the top Javelin throwers in all the land is quite a story. I’ve seen Disney stories that aren’t written that well! Now, I know that Javelin isn’t a competition that many people pay much attention to but as far as I’m concerned it’s a story of that caliber from our backyard. But as I already said, she’s not the only one who deserves recognition.

We’re a mere one season removed from Matti Mortimer performing to a similarly high level of success for the Bison as a thrower of the spear. He got some due attention for the success that he had over the majority of his career but it goes back to what I said, the current successes are built upon the successes of the past, even that recent of history.

I don’t want to box it in to just one feature of the T&F team because there have been great runners and great jumpers and great throwers of all sorts of things just this year. Sprinter Alexis Woods concluded her career with the second best 400M in the school’s history. Likewise for Lauren Gietzen, she cleared 3.93m at the NCAA prelims and wrapped up her time in the Green & Gold as the number two Pole Vaulter in it’s history. Those were the top two of the athletes from NDSU to take part in those NCAA prelim events.

But NDSU didn’t just show up there, no, not by a long shot! The Bison had a strong representation from which to field competitors to Eugene, Oregon. Paramount amongst them were the group of female throwers for the Bison, which totaled 14. That number just happened to be the largest contingent from one school of all the school’s who took part. I don’t think that point can be driven home enough - of all the division one universities & colleges that had athletes qualify for the preliminary throwing events, NDSU had the most competitors! Maybe that’s enough emphasis? No? Okay, none of the others had more than 10. So our U from the “Frozen North” had nearly 50% more than any other school! Come on! That’s crazy!!

But who will be joining Miss Mott on the trip to Eugene for the national championships??

It took all of one throw for Jacob McBride to crush his previous best in the Hammer Throw by more than 9 feet. In an event where inches (or centimeters) matter, he outdid himself by more than 108 inches. That’s a prime time performance if there ever was one! After waiting out the remainder of the throws, his name sat just inside the top 12. With it came another punched ticket to Oregon.

One day later another Bison secured a spot amongst the best in the country and alongside his teammate. Payton Otterdahl had a top 7 performance with the Discus on Friday and followed it up with the third best shot put throw. Is it a throw? I’m going to call it a throw even though it’s more like a launch. Anyways, the big Otter was joined by three Bison who managed to finish in the top 22 in the shot put. Not quite good enough to advance but two of the three are underclassmen so the Bison seem well setup for national success for years to come!

They’re footnotes in the grand scheme of the pursuits but Otterdahl became the first NDSU men’s Track & Field competitor to make it to nationals in two events at the division one level. As the top ranked shot putter in the nation going into this weekend, I would wager that he’s not done yet either!

But wait, there’s more! Olin will have a travel buddy from the women’s team on the trail to Oregon. Maddy Nilles took to the field Saturdy, only to put the eighth best Hammer Throw on the board to complete the quartet. So that wrapped up the representatives who earned a place amongst the best but I would be remiss to not mention that another top performer in NDSU’s history concluded her time with the university. Last but not least, Triple Jumper Piper Jensen may not have been top 12 on the weekend but did finish with the third best standing in program history, and those sorts of accomplishments will always make the mentions!

So it’s not Football but NDSU once again showed that it’s got great things going on in the Spring pack! From Softball to Baseball to the Track & Field events it was quite a season, and for the four yet to be done, it may still get better!

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