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TRACK AND FIELD: Bemidji native Orgon overcomes injury to make NCAA championships for NDSU

Former Bemidji Lumberjack Casey Orgon has qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships meet in the hammer throw. Orgon, a senior at North Dakota State, is the first Bison athlete to qualify for the national meet at the Division I level. Bob Nelson | NDSU Athletics

AUSTIN, Texas — Casey Orgon’s story is the kind of story that makes coaches smile. It’s the kind of story that makes athletes believe.

The senior thrower on the North Dakota State men’s track and field team added another amazing chapter May 25 at the NCAA West preliminary rounds hosted by the University of Texas, qualifying for the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in the hammer throw.

Orgon, a Bemidji native and 2008 graduate of Bemidji High School, extended his storybook career by one more meet, earning a spot among the top 24 throwers in the nation in Eugene, Ore., on June 6.

Orgon extended his school record to 216 feet, 6 inches, placing fifth out of the 48 competitors in Austin. The top 12 advanced to the NCAA finals site, where Orgon will become the first man in NDSU’s Division I era to compete at the NCAA outdoor championships.

Considering where Orgon had been, it’s a remarkable feat.

He came to NDSU as a walk-on in the fall of 2008 with low expectations and even less experience. Orgon was only interested in collegiate track and field because of a broken leg that derailed his hopes of a football career.

“I started as a walk-on. I had never (thrown the hammer) before,” Orgon said. “Honestly, before my senior year of high school, I never even thought I’d do college track. It’s been a long path with a lot of learning.”

The Bemidji native never qualified for a state track and field meet as a high school athlete. So what was his reason for joining the Bison in college?

“I just kind of walked on to the team my freshman year for something to do — and it’s been good,” Orgon said.

Good is an understatement. He won three straight Summit League titles in the hammer throw from 2011-13, becoming only the third man in league history to pull that feat. He owns school records in both the hammer throw and indoor weight throw, as well as ranking among the school’s all-time best in the shot put.

And now, he’s got a shot to be an NCAA All-American.

The Austin meet marked the sixth time this season that Orgon surpassed his previous school record in the hammer throw. Each of his first three throws in the rain-soaked ring flew beyond his previous record of 213-3.

In Orgon’s first crack at the hammer throw in a Bison uniform in 2010, his best throw was 167-4 — nearly 50 feet less than his mark last week.

Orgon had to wait an extra day just to compete in this year’s event. Hammer throw competition was originally scheduled for May 24, but was postponed until May 25 due to inclement weather in the Austin area. The wet, sloppy, muggy environment did not bother Orgon.

“We had rain just like we do at home,” Orgon said. “Quite a bit warmer here, but after I had the competition jitters a little, I was able to step in the ring and use it to my advantage. We train to be consistent in any weather. In a meet like this, you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to do it.”

Orgon’s coach, NDSU assistant Justin St. Clair, wasn’t surprised by his star pupil’s approach.

“Anyone who knows Casey knows that he is very committed, hard-working, and doesn’t say a whole lot. He lets his actions do the talking,” said St. Clair. “He just goes in and does what he needs to do and never lets any nerves get to him. He stays within himself and competes very well.”

Ernie Heifort was Orgon’s shot put and discus coach at Bemidji High School and he isn’t surprised that the former Lumberjack is doing so well at the collegiate level.

“Casey is a great kid, a hard worker and comes from a great family,” Heifort said. “On top of all that, Casey has talent.

“I figured that if Casey got into a weight program he would do very well in college.”

Heifort has been following Orgon’s career and said that Orgon is a natural for the hammer throw.

“Casey’s wingspan must be seven feet from fingertip to fingertip,” Heifort said. “He also is self motivated, doesn’t need much coaching and is such a smart kid that he can analyze the best way to throw the hammer.

“And every year he has gotten better and better.”

Bemidji Pioneer sports editor PAT MILLER contributed to this story.