Concordiaís Erickson hopes to make big leap at nationals
By Eric Peterson
May 19, 1997
Four years ago, Concordiaís Renee Erickson won the NCAA Division III womenís national javelin championship as a freshman.
Not bad for someone who wasnít sure she wanted to go out for the track and field team.
"It was a surprise," Erickson said. "I was just happy to qualify for nationals."
Now a senior, she is looking to end her career the way she started it Ė on top.
Erickson will attempt to cap a perfect college career with a fourth national title at the NCAA Division III track and field national meet at Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The competition starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday.
"She did the work to achieve her goals," said Evonne Vaplon, who coached Erickson up until this season. "Sheís totally dedicated to it."
How she got to where she has been quite a journey.
Erickson was a three-sport athlete as a freshman at New Rockford High School. She was involved in basketball, volleyball and track and field.
But her sophomore year, Erickson decided not to go out for track and field. That decision didnít sit well with her high school basketball coach Deb Burgad.
"She told me I couldnít play basketball if I didnít go out for track," Erickson said.
So Erickson found herself back on the track team her junior season and decided to start throwing the javelin.
Erickson said she might have went back out for track without the ultimatum from Burdgad, but she isnít sure.
While on the New Rockford squad, Erickson steadily improved and became a good javelin thrower. During her senior season, Erickson enjoyed decent success. Her best throw was 124 feet.
"I wasnít the best thrower in high school," Erickson said. "I threw for fun."
Erickson came to Concordia and played volleyball during the fall of her first year. Going out for track in the spring was up in the air at that point.
"I didnít think I could throw at the college level," Erickson said.
Erickson said she was to timid to attend track meetings prior to the season of her freshman year and almost decided not to go out.
"I was scared to walk into a room where I didnít know anyone," Erickson said. "I thought everyone was so much better than me, I thought there was no way I could compete."
But Kristi Berger, who lived across the hall at the time and now is Ericksonís rommate, talked Erickson into going to the meetings with her.
And once on the team, there was no stopping her. Erickson improved in a hurry. Her freshman-best throw was 149 feet, 25 more than her best effort in high school.
Erickson said she canít quite explain her rapid improvement.
"I came to Concordia, lifted weights and worked hard," Erickson said. "Everything came around fast."
And since Erickson came around, she hasnít looked back, capping each of her first three college track and field seasons with national titles. A fourth one is in sight.
"I did see a lot of potential because of her intensity," Vaplon said. "She had a lot of things she could improve on technically. When you get someone with a good attitude there is a lot of room to improve."
But an attitude is something Erickson has never developed as all the titles piled up. She has four MIAC javelin titles to go with the three national crowns.
"Sheís very modest," said Concordia womenís track and field coach Marv Roeske, who has coached Erickson thie season and helped in the previous two. "The newcomers never would know sheís won national titles. Sheís just another person on the team."
Erickson, who graduated from Concordia with a 3.65 GPA in accounting, has things under control away from the track, too. She already has a job lined up in Plainview, Texas as an accountant with Cargil.
Erickson said she is scared and excited at the same time about her job in Texas. But Roeske said it will be no problem for her to succeed.
"Sheís a perfectionist," Roeske said. "It shows in everything she does."
Vaplon would like to see Erickson continue to compete after college.
"I think she could be one of the best throwers in the country," Vaplon said. "She could do it, I would like to see her do it."
Erickson said she will take a "wait-and-see" approach.
"I donít know if Iíll be able to stop or not. Track will always be part of my life in some way."