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Roundup: Local athletes in spring sports at college

Former area athletes that participate in collegiate athletics during the spring season.

This is a look at how some area athletes are doing at their respective colleges or in their athletic careers. Similar stories will run periodically through the fall, winter and spring seasons.

Email bkern@stevenscountytimes.com with any more detailed information on the athletes listed or the names of other athletes who are playing college sports that you would like to see included in future publications.

Track and Field

University of Jamestown sophomore, and 2017 graduate of Morris Area High School, Katie Cannon wrapped up her second season as a Jimmie this spring.

Many track and field athletes compete in one or two events and work to perfect those events, Cannon said. This isn't the case for Cannon, who competed in the pentathlon (five events) during the indoor season and heptathlon (seven events) during the outdoor season.

"My focus is in the multi, so for the indoor season I compete in the hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put, and the 800 to receive a cumulative score in order to place. For outdoor, I compete in the heptathlon, which includes hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put, javlin, 200, and the 800. This causes me to have longer practices and so therefore track has become my new home. In addition to (longer practices), we train almost year-round, which is way different than being a three-sport athlete in high school."

She ranks No. 8 all-time in school history in the heptathlon with a career best 4,180 points, which she scored a the Great Plains Athletic Conference meet. She placed seventh for all-conference recognition and also earned all-conference in the indoor track and field season after taking eighth place in the pentathlon.

She had six new personal bests at the outdoor conference meet: 200-meter dash (27.26), 800-meter run (2:38.32), 100-meter hurdles (15.77), high jump (4-11.75), shot put (32-00.25), and javelin (102-11).

Trent Ostby completed his junior year at Luther College, competing in the pole vault for the Norsemen. He placed fourth in the event at the American Rivers Conference outdoor track and field championships this spring, just missing out on all-conference recognition, which is the top three event participants. He cleared 13-11.25 at the outdoor conference meet.

"One thing that I like about competing at the college level is the responsibilities we are given. The coaches are there to guide us, but they also put on the pressure on letting us know we get out of it what we put into it," Ostby said.

"One of the biggest adjustments I've had to make is time management," Ostby said of competing at the college level for track and field. "Being a Track and Field athlete I tend to spend two-plus hours a day focusing on achieving my goals as an athlete, but making time for school is my number one priority."

Mason Schmidgall wrapped up his freshman year at Dakota State University where he participated in the long jump on the men's track and field team. The DSU Trojans knocked off four-time defending champion Dickinson State to win the North Star Athletic Association's Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Schmidgall participated in the long jump at the meet with a best distance of 15-07.

"It could be difficult to stay in shape once you get to college, especially in the computer science field where for many people the peak of their daily activity comes from getting up and buying Mountain Dew from the vending machine. Track makes staying fit a responsibility, so instead of forcing myself to go get fit, I can get fit while participating in something bigger."

DSU uses the South Dakota State University facility, which is 45 minutes away, as the Trojans' home field house, Schmidgall said.

"It is one of the nicest indoor track facilities in the nation. We hosted the NAIA National Indoor Track Championships there this year, for which I worked the long jump pits. For the outdoor season... (the tracks are) miles better than Hancock's grassy allocation."

Christian Thielke was a sophomore on the University of Minnesota Morris men's track and field team. He was a part of the record-breaking 4x800-meter relay that broke the school record at the 2019 UMAC Championships. Andrew Stanek, Edmund Cease, Thielke and Ryan Anderson finished in 8:13.24. The relay took first place to earn all-conference honors. It was the first career all-conference honor for Thielke.

For Thielke, running at the college level has given him a greater appreciation for the sport.

"The training is more structured and personalized for myself, so I am able to get the most out of every run or workout that I do each day," Thielke said. "My knowledge about the sport I love has grown immensely. There is a whole new level of competition that pushes my limits beyond what I thought I was capable of."

"I was exhausted from the amount of mileage that I was doing and the early mornings that came with it, but I was able to adapt over time and my body got used to it.. kind of," Thielke said of his biggest adjustments. "My teammates make me work harder and the benefits that have come with my experience as a student-athlete have made a different lifestyle for myself well worth it."

Anna Grove completed her sophomore season on the Carleton College women's track and field team this spring.

Grove, like Cannon, has a multi-event focus, participating in the pentathlon in the indoor season and heptathlon in the outdoor season.

"My biggest adjustment to college track has been the addition of the indoor track season and the addition of many new events. I did mainly the 400m dash, long jump, and various relays in high school. In college, I do the pentathlon and heptathlon... Competing in and practicing for all of these events is so much fun and keeps the sport exciting to me."

Grove took ninth in the pentathlon in the MIAC Indoor Championships with 2,715 points.

"The best thing about competing in track is the people I get to spend time with. First of all, my coach, Donna Ricks, is one of the most passionate and kind people I know. She is completely dedicated to her athletes and it shows. I also love my teammates," Grove said.

Moira McNally completed her junior year at the University of Jamestown where she, like Cannon, competes in women's track and field.

"My favorite part about competing at the college level is definitely my teammates," McNally said. "We have become very close over the years, and it's nice getting a fresh batch of faces each year with the new freshman coming in. Everyone supports each other in their (event) as well as in their academic and personal lives. Everyone's family is pretty far away so when were at school were each other's family."

McNally, who is majoring in biology, was named a NAIA Scholar-Athlete in 2019. In order to be nominated by an institution's head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, must appear on the eligibility certificate for the sport and have attended two full years as a non-transfer or one full year as a transfer.

"I've always thought that I manage my time best when I'm busiest, and that has held true throughout college," McNally said of balancing academics with her year-round training. "It does get overwhelming sometimes, especially since our finals week and our important track meets fall around the same time, but the bus is as good of a place to study as anywhere else is."

Midori Soderberg was a top hurdler for Morris Area in 2016 and 2017, placing first in Section 6A both years. She continues to hurdle in college as she wrapped up her sophomore season at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

"As a hurdler, I had to adjust to new types of training and even had to relearn how to clear the hurdle faster by changing how to execute the lead and trail leg. It did take me awhile to adjust to the different training schedule and Adapting to the more intense training schedule was not her biggest adjustment, she said.

"The biggest adjustment for me was to learn how to balance my academics with track. Having taken college-in-the-school and PSEO courses (in high school) while participating in athletics as well as theater, I thought I could handle the college workload. I learned very quickly that college "busy" is another kind of "busy." It is a beast," Soderberg said. "Time management and planning is key. My assignment notebook became best friend."

Soderberg's 400-meter hurdle time of 1:10.8 ranks No. 8 all time at Grinnell. She also ranks No. 7 all-time in school history in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 10.86.

Baseball

Brady Jergenson finished his third season as a Cougar baseball player for the University of Minnesota Morris.

"One of my biggest adjustments was to understand my place on the team," Jergenson said. "It is important to remember as a freshman that you are playing with guys that can be four years older than you are. I needed to understand that they had more experience and talent than I did and I shouldn't expect to play right away."

This year he batted a .273 average this season with 24 hits, 20 RBIs and four home runs. He also pitched 14.1 innings for the Cougars with 11 strikeouts.

Through three years, he holds a career .220 average with 35 hits, nine doubles, 28 RBIs and 128 put outs as a catcher and infielder.

Toby Sayles just completed his sophomore year at Concordia Moorhead where he is a pitcher on the Cobber baseball team. He earned the first save of his college career against King's College March 4.

"I would say the biggest adjustment is the level of competition," Sayles said. "People think of (NCAA Division III) as just a step above high school, but that is not true at all. There are some very good players within our team and our conference. Overall the game was just a lot faster at first so adjusting to that was something that has taken a while."

The Cobbers compete in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), so a lot of road games are played around the Twin Cities area. Traveling greater distances for games is a part of the experience of college baseball, Sayles said.

"Our non-conference schedule we get to go to Florida for 10 days then take a week off and head to Chicago, so that is always a cool experience," Sayles said.

Golf

Jacob Zosel just finished his sophomore season with the University of Sioux Falls men's golf team. He's a 2017 graduate of Morris Area.

After finishing in ninth at the NSIC Championships in 2018, Zosel tied for 27th in the conference this season.

In his two years at USF, Zosel has been to eight states during the golf season.

"We have participated in tournaments in North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota," Zosel said.

He was also named to the Academic All-NSIC Team for men's golf. To be eligible for the honor,the student-athlete must be a member of the varsity traveling team and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.20 or higher.

"With the traveling that we do, I miss a lot of school. It was really a challenge at the start of my freshman year to balance academics and golf. I figured out that I had to work ahead in my classes and establish relationships with my professors," Zosel said of balancing academics with the golf season.

Brooke Kern

Please send sports story ideas, photo submissions, and comments to bkern@stevenscountytimes.com.

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