Photo By Richard Svaleson
It seems as though there is no such thing as a drop off of talent within the North Dakota State track & field program. Year after year, talented (and young) student-athletes rise to the top of the Summit League pack in their respective events. The end result during the indoor perspective has been seven conference titles for the Bison. On the outdoor side, the NDSU’s men have captured 11 conference titles.
The throws program may be the best illustration of this constant stream of talent. It seems as though that each year, throws coach Justin St. Clair is guiding new faces to school records, personal bests and trips to the national meet. While that is certainly a testament to just how good of coach St. Clair is, it also showcases the true potentials of his student-athletes.
Alex Talley is one of those throwers St. Clair has brought to the cusp of greatness in previous seasons. Now a junior, Talley has the national meet in mind as his indoor season winds down. Currently, Talley is right on the cut of making the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in both the shot put and weight throw.
“Nationals has always been the goal. I didn’t quite make the cut last year and I really want to be in the group that gets to go this year. As a team, we have a lot of talented guys that are right on the line,” Talley said. “We really need to buckle down these last few weeks and hit some PRs and be able to punch that ticket to nationals.”
The evidence of Talley’s greatness was on full display in his sophomore season. He was the Summit League runner-up in the shot put and took third in the weight throw last indoor season. While he missed the national meet, he finished the indoor season in the top 30 in the country in both events. He followed that up by making nationals in the shot put and hammer throw during the outdoor season.
Now in his fourth year (including redshirt) in the throws program, Talley has become one of the leaders on the men’s side. With only one senior on the roster and a host of young throwers, Talley wants to pass his knowledge on to the future generation of Bison throwers.
“As a team, I’ve really tried to step up as a leader and try to lead some of the younger guys. They’re putting up some pretty stellar performances for how old they are,” Talley said. “For me personally, learning the form, understanding all the changes and implementing them into the throw. It’s always hard to make a change halfway through the year and it takes time to be able to really get it.”
Talley wants to pass on that knowledge because that was done with him. Learning under great throwers like national champion Payton Otterdahl, Alex Renner and Steffan Stroh was invaluable to Talley. He wants to return the favor to the younger guys this season.
“In science, they use the quote ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ quite frequently. That is definitely true here in my case. The amount I have learned from Alex Renner, Steffan Stroh and Payton Otterdahl is immeasurable almost. I can’t really put it into words how much they taught me and how much they showed me,” Talley said of the Bison greats. “It was more than just throwing too. In life, they taught me how to get through college and all these different things. They really made their mark on me. I try to pass that on to the next group.”
Part of this pride stems from Talley’s West Fargo roots. He takes immense pride in being a Bison and setting a good example. “There is a lot of pride in it. Growing up here, you always looked up to the Bison as huge role models and huge figures. When you become one, you become that for the younger generation. I want to do well for people who are looking up to me. It means a lot to me,” he said.
Talley has become one of those role models for younger throwers. Throughout his junior season, Talley has captured wins in the weight throw in five of the six meets he has competed in. In the shot put, he has not finished outside the top 10 yet this year, including four runner-up finishes.
Part of that constant success is sustainability. Talley, who is second all-time in NDSU indoor history in both weight throw and shot put, says creating habits has guided him to greatness. It is with these habits that the Bison throws program has sustained success in the Division I era.
“We have a very talented throws coach in Justin St. Clair. He is amazing, but he puts the ball in our court a lot. He’ll put a lot of stuff on us like doing extra stuff when he is not around and he preaches that he can only make us do so much and we have to do the rest on our own,” he said. “That really comes down to the seniors to teach the younger generations that accountability. As soon as you get into the habit of doing something, it becomes like second nature to you. Once you get those habits, you have to keep them going.”
In a sport where every attempt matters, Alex Talley is making the most of them all. Thanks to guidance from past Bison throwers, he is now becoming one of the school’s greats. The only ticket left to punch is for the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
NDSU Men’s Track & Field In March
– 7 Summit League Championships
– 17 North Central Conference Championships
– 5 individual national champions (three student-athletes)