WAYNE — Wayne State College coach Marlon Brink has seen a lot in his 21 years on campus, but he has never endured a spring like 2020.
“The rules changed daily, and it was a hard time for us all,” Brink said. “We were out of town at a meet and the NCAA pulled the plug on the rest of the season.”
He went on to describe what transpired from that moment on.
“It really affected recruiting and our team competing at the time,” Brink said. “But we will adapt and get the most out of what we’re doing right now and hopefully the spring season.”
One big change for Brink’s program is the exodus of longtime throws coach Brett Suckstorf.
Suckstorf has coached a long list of All-Americans in the throws in both the indoor and outdoor seasons and decided to stay close to home for a while with his family.
“Brett told me last spring he wanted to stay closer to home and be around his kids,” Brink said. “I understand that, but I also know what he has meant to our program. He was the best.”
Brink didn’t have to look far for Suckstorf’s replacement. In fact, he kept it in the family, so to speak.
“Carly (Fehringer) was already coaching, and I called her to come back and help here at Wayne State,” Brink said. “She came back and has invaluable experience and knowledge to continue to lead our throwers and help us remain one of the top programs nationally in all the throws.”
Fehringer was coaching in Colorado when she got the call from Brink.
“To come back to Wayne and coach at my alma mater was almost a no-brainer,” Fehringer said.
“I learned from the best here, and now I can pass it along.”
The best was Suckstorf, and Fehringer believes she can take it to the next level.
“I want to maintain what he accomplished,” Fehringer said. “... We will work hard to get better despite the circumstances.”
Dylan Kneifl, a freshman from Pilger who tied for first in the high jump at the Wildcats’ opening meet in Wayne, welcomes the thought of getting to compete after missing his entire senior season in high school.
“It’s great to get out and compete with other schools and get our season going,” Kneifl said. “Practice is OK, but getting to meets is the best.”
Kneifl jumped 6-foot-7 as a junior and never saw the track as a senior in high school.
“I thought about playing basketball in college, but my coach at Wisner-Pilger, A.J. Burki, convinced me to try track,” Kneifl said. “I’m glad I did.”
Kneifl cleared the bar at 6-4¾ to tie for first in his opening meet at the Wildcat Invitational and looks to improve from there.
“The other guys high jumping have been very helpful,” Kneifl said. “They are very eager to share what they know as far as the curve running up to the approach, and the coaches are more specific about the event and helping me get better.”
Gabe Peitz, another freshman for the Wildcats, is also happy to get to competition.
“I missed my entire senior season in high school,” Peitz said. “I’m glad to be back on the track.”
Peitz ran the mile on the indoor circuit at Wayne last weekend but prefers a bit shorter distance of the 800 after competing as a Wakefield Trojan in high school.
“I was just over two minutes in the 800 when I was a junior in high school,” Peitz said. “I wanted to get under two minutes and see how low I could go.”
He also has discovered teammates are extremely helpful at Wayne State.
“When you don’t want to ask the coaches a stupid question, you can always ask a teammate,” Peitz said. “My teammates have helped me through a lot of stupid questions — we get along very, very well.”
Getting back on the track was paramount in Peitz continuing his career.
“It is so fun to get back on the track and compete,” he said. “It’s great to be around teammates and just have fun.”
Allie Rosener, a junior from Hartington-Newcastle, has been hampered not only by the circumstances of COVID, but also from an injury.
"I'm about a month away from being cleared to run in competition," Rosener said. "We missed last spring, we missed cross country this fall. I'm ready to get on the track and run."
She said this past weekend may have been the worst as far as missing competition.
"I know after watching teammates last weekend, I will not take for granted being able to compete," she said. "A lot of things have happened over the past year, but to watch my teammates and be on the sidelines, I'm ready to get back on the track."
Wayne State track will get back on the oval this weekend in the Dakota Realty Invitational at the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, South Dakota.
The Wildcats will head to the Herschel Neil Invite on Saturday, Jan. 30, in Maryville, Missouri, before the Washburn Invitational at Washburn, Kansas, on Saturday, Feb. 13.
The South Dakota State University Last Chance Invitational is set for Saturday, Feb. 20, in Brookings, South Dakota, with the NSIC Indoor Championships slated for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26-27, at Mankato, Minnesota.
The NCAA Division II indoor meet will be Friday and Saturday, March 12-13, at Birmingham, Alabama.
“We’re just so glad to be back on the track and competing,” Brink said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we are going to enjoy every second of the competition because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”