Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
Feature photo by Richard Svaleson | NDSU Athletics
It’s not often you find North Dakota State traveling north up the Red River Valley to pluck an athlete from Grand Forks, North Dakota. Ryan Enerson was hoping the Bison would do just that when he was a freshman track and field hurdler at Red River High School.
Photo by Dave Eggen | Inertia
After seeing his high school teammate Kellen Plutowski commit to Don Larson and the Bison track team, Enerson made it his goal to follow in Plutowski’s footsteps.
“I come from a split household,” Enerson said. “My mom went to UND, my dad went to NDSU and I knew it was going to come down to one of those two, and I didn’t really get a ton of looks from UND.”
Enerson wasn’t your prototypical Division I track recruit. He wasn’t winning every race in high school—thanks in part to now-Bison teammate Daniel Asa from West Fargo—but he was able to capture the North Dakota Class-A state title in the 100-meter hurdles.
“Out of high school, my senior year, I only won one hurdle race and it happened to be at the state meet. Daniel Asa, one of my teammates now, beat me every single race my senior year. Luckily, I was able to catch Coach (Don) Larson’s eye.”
— Sophomore Ryan Enerson, Track and Field
But the fall before his title, when Enerson was given the opportunity to visit the school he had on his radar since he was 15, he saw his destiny at NDSU. It wasn’t one conversation with a future teammate or coach. He didn’t labor over his decision and lose sleep thinking about his college future. He was at the Taco Bell off 19th Avenue North when he, along with Matt Moberg, made their decision to become Bison.
“I was blown away,” Enerson said about his visit that fall in 2013. “If you’re going to come somewhere, you want real relationships, you want to be friends outside of track, you want guys that are going to help you out across the board, whether it’s academics, athletics or socially.”
Enerson joined his new track mates in Fargo the following fall, in 2014 and redshirted his first two semesters on campus. He wasn’t a standout in one event, but his 6-foot-5-inch frame and long limbs made him a prime candidate to become a multi-event athlete.
Enerson took off from there, learning the javelin, pole vault and all the intricacies of competing in nearly every track and field event. He was a quick learner and qualified for the USATF Junior Championships.
Photo by Richard Svaleson | NDSU Athletics
In his first indoor season for the Bison, he won the Summit League heptathlon and ranked seventh all-time at NDSU. Enerson climbed the leader board again this winter, winning his second consecutive Summit League heptathlon championship in February.
As Enerson prepares for his sophomore outdoor season, he knows he’s on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA West Preliminary meet. From transforming into a lanky hurdler to a perennial Summit League athlete, Enerson’s improvement has been unparalleled. And the scariest part is, he’s nowhere near initiating his full potential.
Ramblings with Ryan
What were those battles like with Daniel Asa in high school?
“Daniel and I duked it out in the hurdles our entire high school careers. He’s one of those guys that beat me in every race, and just one of those guys that I tried to be on his level. At the state meet, I was able to steal one from him, but then he came back and wrecked me in the 300 hurdles pretty good.”
Why did you become a multievent guy and not just a hurdler?
“Out of high school, I wasn’t the best at anything. I wasn’t the fastest hurdler, I wasn’t the highest high jumper, but I was able to be decent in all of them. I think the coaches saw that and said, well, you might not be able to do great in one thing, but if we develop you over time, you could be a really good multi. I really didn’t even know what the heptathlon was. The first time I ever saw the decathlon (three more events than the heptathlon) was the 2012 Olympic Trial, I was watching it on TV and Ashton Eaton just through it down in the 1,500 and it was a world record, and that was my first taste of it. But that was another two years before I was even out of high school.”
What’s the key to the javelin?
“I don’t know. I wish I knew that myself (laughs). A big thing is staying relaxed and not getting tense where you throw it into the ground, but trying to get your weight back on it and throwing it just right.”
You have scored really well academically at NDSU. What do you want to do?
“(I’m a) biology major. Right now, I’m on track to graduate this coming fall, so then I’ll have a year and a half, and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I want to do. I think I might double major in biology education. My mom was a teacher and a couple other relatives were teachers. I’m just trying to leave doors open right now.”