Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography and NDSU Athletics/Nate Barrett
There have been many impressive accomplishments for North Dakota State athletics since moving up to Division I. The most dominant program is the women’s track and field team. Alexis Woods is one of many North Dakota natives helping contribute in the run of consecutive Summit League titles.
Pride Of The Prairie: Alexis Woods
- Track & Field
High School: Parshall
NDSU by the Numbers
Five-time Summit League 4×400-meter relay champion (indoor and outdoor). NCAA Championships qualifier in the 4×400 (outdoor 2017). Summit League champion in the 400-meter and also won a Summit League title in the 4×100-meter relay (outdoor 2017).
North Dakota Impact
When people think of sports in North Dakota, “speed” isn’t necessarily the first thing that pops into their mind. So when NDSU decided to transition to Division I, the general thought was the recruiting landscape for programs like track and field will change dramatically. Because how many Division I track athletes can you find in North Dakota?
As it turns out, quite a bit. The Bison women’s track and field team has 62 student-athletes on its roster. Twenty-five of them are from North Dakota. They are part of a program that has won every single indoor and outdoor Summit League title since 2008. That’s 20 in a row.
Alexis Woods is one of those North Dakota athletes. The Parshall native is a big reason why the Bison have had so much success in the 400-meter races. Woods, a senior, is a five-time Summit League 4×400-meter relay champion in the indoor and outdoor seasons. She won her first individual title in the 400-meter dash in the 2017 outdoor season and was also a part of the 4×100-meter relay team that took first.
Her career-best 400-meter outdoor time of 52.99 seconds ranks second all-time at NDSU.
The 400-meter program at NDSU was a big reason she chose to come to Fargo. It turned out to be her specialty in high school, winning four Class B state titles in the 400-meter dash after runner-up finishes as a seventh and eighth grader. It was a race she originally wasn’t training for.
“We had a lot of talent in our track program with our distance,” Woods said. “I started with distance, then as I got older I got faster and my speed progressed. I liked going to school there, running there and being from a small town. You knew everyone and you had a lot of family there. It was a good experience growing up.”
Her success in the quarter-mile race didn’t take a break when she got to NDSU. As a freshman in 2015, Woods led off the Bison 4×400-meter relay that won the Summit League title. She’s won a conference title in that race every season since. Last year in the outdoor season, the Bison 4×400 team made it to the NCAA Championships, taking 17th place with a time of 3:38.44.
On that relay with Woods was Amy Andrushko (Dugald, Manitoba), Rose Jackson (Willmar, Minnesota) and Morgan Milbrath (Minot, North Dakota). Woods said she can sense when competing at bigger events that not many give a Midwest track and field program much credit.
“I think a lot of people don’t know what NDSU is about,” she said. “But with the throwers program, they’re helping put us on the map. And we’ve had successful 4x4s in the past. Hopefully, we can get more events at the NCAA Championships and keep succeeding.”
Woods is used to running with something to prove. Coming from North Dakota to run Division I track is one thing. Coming from a Class B program is another. But she isn’t alone. Thirteen of the 25 North Dakota athletes on the team competed in the smaller of the two high school divisions.
“Especially being from a smaller school and Class B, I kind of have a chip on my shoulder and try to represent Class B,” Woods said. “We want to show we can compete and we have talent there.”
Overall, Woods pointed out that having a majority of the team being from North Dakota or Minnesota helps out with team chemistry. She mentioned how they can all relate to each other, whether if they’re from Bismarck or Parshall. It’s that type of friendship that Woods says will stick with her when she graduates this May.
“I have a really good friend group here,” Woods, a criminal justice major, said. “That’s helped me adjust to things here and made my time here so much better. We’ve had great upperclassmen that showed me the way and told me what it meant to be a Bison. You just see it every day here. You look around and see all the banners and it’s just a really good program. I’m proud to be a Bison.”
Questions & Answers With Alexis Woods
Bison Illustrated: What made you decide to run collegiately at NDSU?
Alexis Woods: “I wanted to be somewhere that was far from home, but close enough where I could travel home if I needed to. It was a Division I program and they also had a really good 400 and 4×4 program. That influenced my decision a lot.”
BI: Did you ever consider leaving the state for college, or was staying in North Dakota something you always wanted to do?
AW: “I had my options open. I wasn’t opposed to leaving the state. But I was also fine with staying in North Dakota, too.”
BI: How do you think this program has been able to sustain this success?
AW: “We have good camaraderie and no one on this team is selfish. We all just want to help each other and see each other succeed. You get to practice every day with girls that are hard-working and have the same goals as you.”