Track & field athletes Payton Otterdahl and Katie Bostrom
Track & Field

Track & Field Athletes Up The Ante

For track & field athletes Katie Bostrom and Payton Otterdahl, the most important thing is striking a balance between training and academics.

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Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography and special to Bison Illustrated

Senior tracksters Payton Otterdahl and Katie Bostrom look to keep the Bison indoor streak alive this winter.


Track and field is one of the most time-consuming sports at the collegiate level. Not to demean the work other athletes put in, but track and field athletes are competing at top-level meets for nine months out of the year. For senior distance runner Katie Bostrom and senior thrower Payton Otterdahl, the most important thing is striking a balance between training and academics.

“Having really good time management skills,” said Bostrom, who also ran cross country in the fall on top of track and field. “Even in high school, I’ve done all the sports every single season, so just choosing and prioritizing and finding what things are the most important to get done first and have everything else trickle down.”

For Otterdahl, he has a similar approach, with a focus on working around his training schedule. “To make my life a lot easier, get the academic stuff done first and then I can just focus on giving my all to training,” the senior said. “There is nothing worse than pushing something off until the last minute and you have to get through training, thinking about that assignment, knowing you have to be at training but you should be working on that. For me, it’s been about getting it done ahead of time and then I can relax and just focus on the training. Not stress myself out.”

While academics take precedence over athletics at NDSU, both Bostrom and Otterdahl have thrived for the Bison in their careers. Now, they look to become leaders for their respective groups. “There are people that we are with all the time and we get to connect with them every single day and you see them grow as individuals,” Bostrom said. “It’s less of a leadership position, and more of just we’re all really good friends and some of us have been doing this for such a long time that someone else can walk up to us and ask ‘how do I handle this situation?’ and we can say we’ve been there. To me, leadership is less about telling someone to do something and more about working through things with each other.”

Katie Bostrom

Bostrom, who is originally from Fargo, began her career at Omaha, a Summit League foe of NDSU’s. When she transferred to NDSU after her freshman season, she immediately saw the difference at NDSU. She believes this is why Bison track and field has dominated the Summit League for the last decade. “The team dynamic is a little bit different,” she said. “Everyone just has a tradition of excellence here at NDSU and that is the sort of thing I was looking for. I was trying to be around people that had that drive to get better every single day. That’s what I liked and I like to see the fire in people’s eyes when they’re working out and they’re going hard, trying to beat each other at every rep. That’s one thing I really liked. Everyone was challenging each other in a positive way.”

The Bostrom File

  • Ran the 800m leg of NDSU’s Summit League Indoor Championship distance medley relay team.
  • Placed third in the 800m at the Summit League Outdoor Championships last season.
  • Finished in sixth place at this year’s Bison Open, the inaugural cross country race of the season for NDSU.
  • Major: Political Science
  • Fargo, North Dakota
  • Senior
  • Distance

It has proven to be a great move for Bostrom. Last year, she placed third in the 800m at the Summit League Indoor Championships. She finished at the same spot during the outdoor championships as well. In her final season with the cross country team, she helped the Bison capture team titles at the Bison Open and UND’s Ron Pynn Classic. Much of this success can be attributed to the chemistry the middle distance and distance girls have. Bostrom says that pushes the squad to be that much better on a daily basis.

“You kind of know what to expect every day at practice and you know where everyone else placed at the last race and we’ll work with you and try to get better that way,” she said. “We’re always pushing each other and keeping each other accountable. Each person knows what another wants to do. So we’re always asking each other what we’re doing today to get better.”

Payton Otterdahl

Otterdahl, a senior from Rosemount, Minnesota, is one of the most accomplished throwers in recent memory. While he sat out last year’s indoor season with a redshirt, he still competed unattached. Had he not been redshirting, he would have set the school’s indoor record for shot put and weight throw. His 70-02.50 in the shot put would have also been 11th best in the entire NCAA. Otterdahl reflected on those marks and if that is a motivating factor for him heading into his final indoor season.

The Otterdahl File

  • NDSU outdoor school record holder in shot put and discus.
  • Was ranked number one in the nation in the shot put last season.
  • Second team All-American in shot put and discus.
  • Major: Health and Physical Education
  • Rosemount, Minnesota
  • Senior
  • Throws

“I don’t think about the school record too much. That’s just something that comes along with it,” he said. “I’m not chasing numbers or anything like that, but I just feel like I can put up some pretty good numbers and place high at nationals. That’s the ultimate goal for this coming season, and to see what other records I can break.”

As for the outdoor season last year, Otterdahl was NDSU’s best thrower. He held the league’s top shot put mark at the Summit League Championships. He placed 10th in both the shot put and discus at the NCAA Championships and was named a second-team All-American. He also surpassed the school’s outdoor records in the shot put and discus. With all of those accomplishments, how does Otterdahl set goals for this year?

“I have ideas of where I want to be. I don’t want to say they’re easily attainable because they are high goals. Obviously place high at nationals, I want to see what records I can break potentially, to stay healthy all year,” he said. “Make it to USAs again, next year is an Olympic year, so I want to give my best shot at that as well. Then we have World Championships this summer, those are things I have my eyes on, but I’m not going to say I’m going to make any of those teams. If I work hard and do the right things, good things will happen.”

As with Bostrom, Otterdahl sees leadership as a necessary quality, but he prefers to lead by example. This is made easier thanks to a cohesive unit of throwers led by coach Justin St. Clair. “I haven’t been very vocal. I’m not a vocal person, so the way I’ve always liked to lead is through example,” he said. “I want others to see how far I’ve come and to think that they can do that as well. It’s not far-fetched for them, you can start from anywhere and make huge strides. That is kind of my idea, I want to get everybody going from what I have done in my time here.”

It is also important for Otterdahl and the other throwers to have chemistry with one another. Many of the Bison throwers have been together for a number of years and Otterdahl sees that as a big advantage. “Personally, it helps me to know that we’re all going through the same thing,” he said. “We’re not going through it alone either, we have each other to fall back on. A lot of people put a lot of pressure on themselves like they have to do this or that, but we have our own team goals as well. To put it in a nutshell, just going through things together helps us motivate and push each other to be better.”

The Bison men have won three consecutive Summit League indoor crowns and nine straight outdoor titles. For the women, they have won 11 straight indoor and outdoor crowns, a truly remarkable feat. Both teams will look to keep their streaks alive this season. With incredible senior athletes like Katie Bostrom and Payton Otterdahl, the Bison track and field teams are on a fast track to keeping their unreal stretch of conference championships alive.

Track & Field Athletes Up The Ante
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