'I knew it was going to take something big to make the team': NDSU's Otterdahl reflects on career best throw to qualify for Olympics

Payton Otterdahl spent last season as a volunteer assistant coach for the Bison throwers while also competing professionally with Nike.

Payton Otterdahl celebrates after placing third in the shot put at 71-11 (21.92m) during the US Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field. Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports
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FARGO — It’s funny to think what can all happen in just a few days.

“You have to love what you’re doing to be able to be here. It’s finally starting to settle in,” Otterdahl said.

A week and a half ago, Payton Otterdahl was assisting at a section track tournament in Fergus Falls.


“Last weekend before this meet, my friend asked me to come down and help out for the section track meet and I said that I would if he would take me fishing on his boat afterwards, so that’s what we ended up doing,” Otterdahl said.

Now the former NCAA Champion is Olympics bound.

“Well I knew that I stood a chance. I came into the meet fifth. I came in fifth but I only needed to move up two spots to make the team. I knew that that was going to be a tall order and I knew it was probably going to take an all time best to do that. I was feeling confident that I could be that next guy in line, but I knew it was going to take something big to make the team,” Otterdahl said.

“Being just outside the top three, I felt like the pressure wasn’t really on me. So I feel like I just had to give it all I had and hope that it would be enough to make the team,” he added.

Otterdahl did just that on Friday, throwing a career best 71 feet 11 inches.

“It’s been two years since I have had a personal best. The dry spell, I was really feeling it. I wasn’t performing as well as I was when I was in college. My marks were getting more consistent, but I still hadn’t thrown a personal best in two years. So this makes up for it all,” Otterdahl said.

Payton’s success in the ring is only climbing. As the pressure builds wearing the red, white, and blue, he also remembers this is what he is meant to do.

“I’m a shot putter because I enjoy it. I don’t have to take it so seriously. My career is just throwing a heavy thing as far as I can. So if you have fun with what you’re doing, success will come,” Otterdahl said.


Now Payton is taking his chance. He’s showing he’s not just worthy of being on the team, but bringing Team USA a medal.

“You don’t have to be a top recruit out of high school. You don’t have to be the best thrower in the nation in high school. Hard work and dedication and attention to detail, it can take you far,” Otterdahl said.

“You’re throwing against people that you have been looking up to for so long. It’s surreal, sometimes I forget I’m trying to be one of those guys too,” he added.

Otterdahl says the next few weeks will be filled with training and fine tuning throws, before heading to the Olympic Games on July 24.

PHOTO: Otterdahl Interview
Payton Otterdahl

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