Track and Field: Rosemount's Payton Otterdahl turns heads at North Dakota State
Payton Otterdahl is a very strong man, and is the oldest son in a family of very strong men. A 2014 graduate of Rosemount High School who played football, wrestled and threw for the boys' track team, Otterdahl has quickly become one of the best throwers in the country as part of the North Dakota State University men's track and field team. Over the past season, he has broken numerous school records and at one point was No. 1 in the country for the shot put.
As a three-sport athlete, Otterdahl said that track and field did not separate itself in his mind until he realized just how good he could be.
"I wasn't a big fan of track until my junior year of high school when I was winning meets and finding success," he said. "Wrestling had always been my favorite sport because I was close friends with all my teammates. After my junior year of track, and I placed high at the state meets, is when I knew I wanted to throw in college."
Otterdahl took second in the shot put and third in the discus as a junior at the Class AA state championship meet and swept both championships as a senior. He holds the Rosemount school record in the shot put (61 feet, 0.25 inches) and the discus (179-8).
Otterdahl said there was no secret to his improvement during high school on his way to becoming a state champion. He simply worked on his technique and added strength. When he won his state championships, he said "after winning both I felt like I had reached all my goals for track in high school and it was a good feeling".
As graduation approached, he said that he had several opportunities to continue into college, including NDSU, the University of South Alabama, Minnesota and Iowa State.
"I decided to attend NDSU because I liked the team chemistry between my future teammates," he said. "They lived, trained and competed together. The coach, Justin St. Clair, also was very focused and intense and that was somebody that I wanted to compete for. The recruitment process was difficult, as there were a few schools that I would have enjoyed attending. NDSU just seemed like the best choice."
Otterdahl produced right away his freshman season, taking fourth in the shot put and 11th in the weight throw during the indoor season at the Summit League Indoor Championships. During the outdoor season, he was the USA junior national champion and the Pan American Junior champion in the discus and continued to rack up the honors. He has improved every year of competition so far while redshirting as a junior during the outdoor season and now this year in the indoor.
Otterdahl said the biggest difference between high school and collegiate throwing has been the intensity.
"Training has changed because I now have much more time to train, up to five hours a day and the intensity level is much higher," he said. "The work is much more but the results are showing."
Otterdah also has had to add the weight throw to his repertoire, an event that is not part of the high school level. While he says he prefers the shot put and discus due to how long he's been competing in those events, the main challenge with the weight throw has just been learning the techniques.
This past year, Otterdahl really broke out onto the national stage. During his redshirt indoor season, he would have set NDSU records in the shot put and weight throw and ranked 11th in the country for the shot put and 17th in the weight throw. During his junior outdoor season, he set school records in the shot put and discus. Heading into the NCAA preliminaries, he was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA for shot put and 13th in discus after dominating the Summit League Championships.
Heading into his final year of competition for the Bison, Otterdahl said his work is not done yet.
"I just want to leave my mark on NDSU track and field as a good teammate and competitor," he said. "My motivation is just trying to be the best I can be. My goals for this year is winning a team conference title and place high at nationals in my events."
Otterdahl is also in the unique position as he is once again teammates with his younger brother Trevor Otterdahl, who graduated RHS last spring and was a freshman this past year.
"It's great being teammates again and experiencing everything together," he said about once again competing with Trevor. "We get to travel the nation and compete as well as train and push each other to be better. I try to be a role model and motivator to both of my brothers."
Throwing runs in the Otterdahl family as following Payton and Trevor is the youngest brother, Max, who just won a state championship in the shot put and took seventh in the discus as a junior a few weeks ago.
Otterdahl credits those around him with helping him get to where he is today.
"My high school coaches helped really get me into the sport, my parents always pushed me to be the best that I can be and my brothers motivate me to be an example for them," he said.
As for the future after college, he said that he would like to continue competing after college and could see himself coaching as well.