FARGO — The North Dakota State track and field program will have to make another adjustment to its banner of Olympic athletes inside its Ellig Track & Field facility on campus. Payton Otterdahl is headed to Tokyo.
And if matters work out, and it appears they will, the Bison may have to double the printing costs. Javelin thrower Riley Dolezal is hoping 12 years of work following his NDSU career will pay off with a ticket to the Olympic Games.
“There are a lot of questions like, how do you keep doing this?” Dolezal said. “A lot of luck sometimes but a lot of preparation and sleepless nights are part of it with a little stress and the waiting process is getting tough.”
Dolezal is in the ultimate waiting process.
He finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene, Ore., this week but will have to sweat it out until July 1 to find out if the throw was far enough to get his long-awaited ticket to the Olympic Games.
The West Fargo middle school teacher from Stanley, N.D., put himself in position with a dramatic toss of 252 feet, 10 inches on his final attempt, which moved him from fifth to third. Because he hasn’t reached the Olympic qualifying standard, a top-three finish at the Trials did not guarantee him an Olympic bid. The javelin field in Tokyo is composed of 32 throwers, 25 of which have already met the entry standard.
It leaves seven remaining spots, which will be based on World Athletics Rankings on July 1. In talking with U.S. Olympic officials, Dolezal said “from what I hear I should be pretty much in.”
Dolezal could partake in another meet to try and improve his standard but that appears unlikely. He’s been checking the world javelin list for the past two to three months on a consistent basis, which is updated every week and comes out on a Sunday or Monday.
Before his final throw, Dolezal said he went over and talked with his throws coach, Justin St. Clair, who provided some key advice: Quit thinking too much.
“He was like, you didn’t come this far just to come this far so go out there and hit one,” Dolezal said. “I shut off the brain, went down the runway and put everything I had at the end and threw it out there.”
Otterdahl, meanwhile, qualified in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 71 feet, 11 inches. And it’s not as if he went somewhere far away after completing his NDSU career in 2019; he remained in Fargo to train with St. Clair, the former Bison assistant who recently took a job at the University of Nebraska.
Otterdahl becomes the seventh Olympian with NDSU ties and fourth in track and field and Dolezal, who competed at NDSU from 2005-09, would be the eighth. The other three were female athletes Tamara Brudy in 1996, Amanda (Thieschafer) Smock in 2012 and Erin Teschuk in 2016. Brudy was on the 1,600-meter relay for her native country Saint Kitts and Nevis, Smock competed in the triple jump in London in 2012 and Teschuk qualified in the 3,000-meter steeplechase for Canada in 2016.
Other NDSU Olympians were wrestlers Brad Rheingans in 1976 and John Morgan in 1988 and volleyball player Janet Cobbs in 1992.
“It’s huge for us,” said Bison head track and field coach Stevie Keller. “It proves you can be successful at a very high level at North Dakota State.”
Otterdahl, who competes professionally for Nike, won two Division I indoor national titles in the shot put and weight throw and is a volunteer assistant coach for the Bison. Keller at one point wondered if Otterdahl was going to consider concentrating on the discus because the shot put in the United States is so deep in talent.
Reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser threw a world record 76-8¼ to win the meet Friday. Otterdahl narrowly edged 2016 Olympian Darrell Hill for the final Olympic spot by one inch, doing it on his fifth of six attempts.
Dolezal said the toughest part in watching Otterdahl is he couldn’t do it at the stadium. He had to stream it.
“To watch him in that fifth round, get bumped out and he answers it right away with a personal best, that is clutch for him to do that,” Dolezal said. “It was amazing to watch.”
It was a storybook weekend for Bison throwers. NDSU junior Alex Talley played seventh in the hammer throw behind six professional throwers. His toss of 236 feet, 8 inches extended his school record by over three feet.