The women’s track and field team has never lost a Summit League Championship. In the 10 years the Bison have been in the conference, they’ve won every indoor and outdoor championship meet they have participated in.
Stevie Keller is in his third year as the women’s track and field head coach and 17th year overall at NDSU. Before taking over as head coach in 2014, Keller was the men’s associate head coach and coached the multi-event athletes, hurdlers and pole vaulters. We spoke to him about the squad before their 10th consecutive Summit League Indoor Championship meet.
Bison Illustrated: How has throws coach Justin St. Clair developed some of the best throwers in the Midwest Region?
Stevie Keller: “I think he just does a good job of teaching them along. It isn’t over their head to begin with and he just progresses them throughout the year. He’s done a really good job. And the longer you coach, the more you start figuring things out in terms of figuring out when athletes peak at the right time. But then you also try new things, as the kids get better and better, you have to make adaptations to push them to get better.”
BI: What’s the key to continually peaking the throwing athletes during two seasons – indoor and outdoor?
SK: “I think a lot of it has to do with strength training for the throws. Justin writes their program for them, and he gets to know those student-athletes through their four or five years here and learns what they can do. Their fifth or fourth year, they’re getting stronger and I think that’s key to the success. And their technique is getting better, but also, maybe they’re more comfortable the older you get, the confidence and you’re used to competing, and you don’t get rattled as much as you do when you’re a youngster.”
BI: What about a senior like Katelyn Weimerskirch? Has she peaked already as a senior or can she still improve?
SK: “I think she’s on the up and up still, and Justin has done a phenomenal job of continuing to raise the bar higher and higher. Katelyn has done a lot for us and she’s really set the tone and paved the way for a lot of these girls and has been a great leader. The young kids come in and they see how hard she works and the success she has had. They feed off of that. The upperclassmen do a good job of teaching, too. They bring them along. It’s a really close-knit group.”
BI: You’ve lost two All-American distance runners in Erin Teschuk and Maddie Van Beek over the last two years. Who has been carrying that group for you this year?
SK: “This year Kayla Huhnerkoch has really come around from last year, she’s a sophomore now, and Annika Rotvold, a transfer from Auggie (Augustana University), has been having a phenomenal year. That’s a really young group right now of sophomores and freshmen. Taylor (Janssen) is running strong, too. She had a PR in the mile last weekend, she’s another one that’s a senior and a leader. Taylor is a competitor and that’s what Andrew and I talk about. You know you’re going to get 100 percent from Taylor when it comes time for a conference meet and that’s something that you have to respect.”
BI: You have 22 athletes on the roster from North Dakota and Taylor Janssen is from Moorhead, Minnesota. How are you getting the most out of the local talent?
SK: “Right, and we’re probably one of the few Division I schools that recruited her (Janssen). Ryun (Godfrey) wat ched her compete and saw her and thought, ‘This girl could help us out some day.’ Kids like that are in the state or from around the state who want to come here. They want a degree, for one, but also want to compete at a high level. Kids come here and they’re successful and kids from their high school and coaches from their high school see that, and Lars (Don Larson, men’s coach) has been here a long time and I’m getting to that point where, I’m getting here in my 17th year here, only my third year as the head coach, but when you’re at one place for a long time, you make a connection with a lot of coaches throughout the region. They know how loyal we are to our student- athletes, and they know when they come here, we’re going to treat them well. It’s not just about performance, it’s about raising young women and young men to be good citizens and good people.”