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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 28 2009

College track and field: Bison find talent in tri-state area

North Dakota State is one day from its first NCAA regional track and field meet, and the Bison have already proven they can find Division I talent in their own backyard. In Whitney Carlson’s case, they found talent in their own farm yard.

The sophomore from a ranch north of Windsor, N.D., population 38, is one of 10 team members who qualified for the Midwest Regional Championships in Norman, Okla., on Friday and Saturday. The top five individuals from each event qualify for the NCAA championships on June 11-13 in Fayetteville, Ark.

A trip to the NCAAs is possible for Carlson, who jumped 21 feet in the long jump at The Summit League meet.

“The people I surround myself with think it was a good move,” Carlson said of NDSU’s Division I transition, which ended after last season. “I guess we showed those people there is definitely a lot of talent here.”

All 10 NDSU athletes are from North Dakota, South Dakota or Minnesota. Head coach Ryun Godfrey believes there are, on average, one to two top-level Division I recruits every year out of North Dakota.

“And there are always several in state who can come here and help us at a Division I conference level,” Godfrey said.

Carlson won 19 state championships competing for Carrington High School. She attended Pingree-Buchanan High but the school didn’t have a track team.

The recruiting race came down to NDSU, Minnesota and Nebraska. In the end, it was only a two-hour drive from Fargo to the farm, where, depending on the year, the family grows corn, flax, wheat, soybeans and canola and also raises cattle.

Until her senior year when Carrington built a track, she said workouts sometimes consisted of running on gravel roads in the area.

“They would take a bus out there and drop us off,” she said. “I think it was great. Gravel is easy on your shins, and you get some pretty good workouts.”

Carlson will compete in the 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles in addition to the long jump. She’s ranked fourth regionally in the long jump and 10th in the 400 hurdles.

Teammate Laura Hermanson is ranked first in the 800 and Leslie Brost is third in the pole vault. They are performances measured against the likes of Big Ten and Big 12 conference teams.

NDSU doesn’t have to go far to find a recruiting pitch for in-state athletes.

“It was the perfect fit for me,” Carlson said. “I guess people are different but I can tell them it’s an amazing track program, just as good as the U of M or Nebraska, I think. The coaches are awesome, the people are awesome and the community is awesome.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia