NUHS grad re-unites with track and field

BRANDON, S.D. – Former New Ulm track and field standout Brian Roegiers is busy keeping active and competing in sports even at the age of 55.

However, Roegiers isn’t competing in a typical sport such as golf or bowling or softball. Instead, he’s throwing shot put, discus, hammer and javelin and getting ready to compete in the Senior Games this July.

Roegiers graduated from New Ulm High School in 1976 and later competed in track and field at Rochester Community College and then Minnesota State University, Mankato before moving to Brandon, South Dakota to take over as executive director of McCrossan Boys Ranch.

While Roegiers had remained active in other sports his whole life, he decided to give throwing another shot again in 2011 a the South Dakota Senior Games in Madison, S.D.

There, Roegiers didn’t just compete, he pretty much dominated the competition. He took first in three events, winning the shot put with a throw of 42-feet-4.25 inches, the hammer toss (91-0) and the javelin (122-11) and took second in discus with a throw of 133-6. His throw in the shot put even set a state record.

Not too bad, considering he hadn’t competed in nearly 30 years.

“It was almost two years ago now, I got kind of a bad knee playing basketball and I wanted to be competitive at something again, so I went back to track and field,” he said. “I found out through a person out here in South Dakota that there was a place for those over 50 to compete again. So then I took it up again, and it’s gone a little better than I thought it would.”

After the long hiatus, he teamed up with Howard Brown, who helped him get back into shape by working out with him and giving Roegiers some friendly competition.

“I’ve been lifting seriously, which is more leg exercises and more explosive type movements,” Roegiers said. “I was warned when I started that if you don’t use it, that explosive part goes away. I suppose because I stayed active in softball and basketball it wasn’t completely gone.”

Roegiers admitted it was tough getting back into throwing shape, especially with the hammer.

“The hammer, I had very little experience with, even back in college,” Roegiers said. “I probably threw in probably a few meets so that is still probably the most challenging event. Just trying to learn the advanced level of spinning is really quite difficult.

“The hammer is still the ultimate challenge, I’ve had the most success in the shot and the discus,” he said. “That’s where I had the most success in high school and college.”

Roegiers did have plenty of success at New Ulm High School. In fact, he held the school’s discus record for about 13 years. He went to state in shot put as a sophomore and was coached by Skip Davis and Don Varpness was his throwing coach.

He became interested in throwing after he won a softball throw competition at the age of 12, and the rest is history.

After he regained his love for the sport, he recently competed in a National Indoor Masters Championship in Landover, Maryland. He recently turned 55-years old, so he’s now the youngest in his current age group of competitors, meaning he has high hopes for future competitions.

“I’m actually the youngest, so it’s kind of nice,” he said. “It’s a year where you could potentially be at the best of the group.”

He began throwing outside again on Tuesday and he’s training at both the Brandon Area High School and at Augustana College. He approached the coach at Augustana and they agreed to help him train and Roegiers also agreed to help out with some of the athletes there.

“I think people were surprised at first and they thought it was some older guy that just wanted some attention,” Roegiers said of practicing at Augustana. “I think they quickly found out that I was serious and they were second in the nationals.”

This summer he’ll be competing at a national competition, and he’ll pick from two different ones. There’s one in Olathe, Kansas and the other one is in Cleveland in July. He’s currently considering competing in both and his ultimate goal is for the gold medal.

Still, track and field isn’t a typical sport men his age compete in and he’s glad he got in touch with Brown, who helped him get back into the sport.

“It really started by seeing a person [Brown] out at the school working out, and that really got me going,” Roegiers said. “It turned out I actually knew him and we were recruited by the same college coach and he actually was a junior college national champion back in those days.

“We’ll be competing in the same age bracket now, so he and I will be going head-to-head this summer,” Roegiers said. “It really helps to have a friendly rivalry and we have some pretty good throwers in South Dakota in some of the other events.”

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