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Positive attitude helps Bison thrower Steffan Stroh hurdle diabetes

North Dakota State's Steffan Stroh, a senior from Underwood, Minn., holds the school record in the hammer throw. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 3
North Dakota State's Steffan Stroh is the school record holder in the hammer throw (218 feet, 3 inches) and ranks 22nd in the country. NDSU Athletics photo 2 / 3
Steffan Stroh of Underwood, Minn., throws the shot put for North Dakota State's men's track and field team. NDSU Athletics photo3 / 3

FARGO—Like some college kids are tempted to do, Steffan Stroh put a personal touch on his yellow moped that he uses to get around the North Dakota State campus. It has large Bison logos on it.

Like some other students, he's plowed through his biotechnology major for the last four-plus years. Like a lot of athletes from small towns around the region, Stroh came to NDSU from Underwood, Minn., unsure if he could compete at the Division I level in track and field.

Like a lot of athletes at NDSU, he's surpassed his expectations by a mile. Or, in the case of his hammer throw, by a lot of feet.

"I thought throwing might be something kind of cool to do in college," Stroh said. "So I said to myself, well, if I get on the team and enjoy myself a little bit, it might be worth it."

Like any other kid who's capable of it, he earned the Minnesota Eagle Scout of the Year award his senior year at Underwood, the result of years of climbing the ranks of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. If you're looking for somebody to tag along with for a trip to the Boundary Waters Wilderness in northern Minnesota, he's your man.

He's done all that, like anybody else with an inner drive can do. And the fact he's done it while dealing with Type 1 diabetes—well, you would never know.

"Our message to young people is you can achieve what you want to achieve," said Marlene Stroh, his mother. "The only person who can stop you is you. You can achieve your goals and diabetes will not stop you."

About the only clue is a Medtronics insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor that Stroh attaches to his Bison uniform.

"I've had meets where it's flown off before but it's usually not a big deal," Steffan said. "If it's been bothering me that day, I can unclip it and take if off."

But he rarely unclips the mental consistency of monitoring the sugar levels in his blood. He was diagnosed in seventh grade, something the family already went through a couple of years earlier when Steffan's older brother, Eric, was diagnosed with diabetes.

Marlene, a nurse, was a huge help right away with her medical knowledge. Technology has played a big part in the continuing daily regimine for Steffan, thanks to cell phone apps and devices like the Apple Watch.

"His dad and I make sure he gets the latest technology and he utilizes it to the ultimate ability that he can," Marlene said. "I think the fact he's able to manage the technology behind it and that he knows the science behind it. He does a great job of managing all of his sports, academics, social life and diabetes."

If it's been a hindrance, nobody would ever know. Steffan said the Bison coaches understand if he has to suddenly leave to check his sugar level or go find some supplies. He said he's had teammates come up to him after they found out of his diabetes and told him they had no idea he was dealing with it on a daily basis.

"I have to be extra prepared when we travel," he said. "I guess I just try to make it more of a positive. It's always something in the back of my mind. Everything I eat—if I have a test coming up, I have to make sure of my sugar level so I'm not feeling bad when I take the test. It's the same with competitions and practice, you always have to be kind of careful I guess."

The Bison are hosting the NDSU Tune-Up Friday at Schlanser Track and Ellig Sports Complex, which will be the only home appearance this spring for both the men and women. Field events begin at 11:30 a.m. and running events at 2:15 p.m.

The Summit League Championships are next weekend in Tulsa, Okla., and certainly the Bison will be heavy favorites in the throws. Stroh won the hammer throw at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, last weekend in the collegiate division with the second-best toss of his career of 217 feet, 9 inches. He's ranked 22nd in the country.

He's the school record holder in the event with his throw of 218-3 at the Beach Invitational in Long Beach, Calif., last month. And to think it all started during his senior year in high school when he contacted former NDSU thrower Brian Blasey and asked him about the program.

That's when Bison throwing coach Justin St. Clair was still relatively new on staff.

"He said the program is pretty amazing and the things Justin has been doing have been awesome," Steffan said. "I never thought it would turn into this."

The change came after his freshman year at NDSU, when he said St. Clair sat him down.

"He said I see a lot of potential in you and I just want you to know that," Stroh said. "He set me straight, saying it's on you to be proactive and to get after it. He said he could only open some doors but it was up to me to walk through them. That hit me hard and I really buckled down after that."

Stroh certainly walked through those doors. Diabetes did not hold him back.

"Everybody has something," he said "If you let one thing hold you back, you're just hurting yourself."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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