TRACK AND FIELD: Bemidji alum Cody Roder reaches NCAA Championships with NDSU
Roder is wrapping up his collegiate career at North Dakota State with a trip to Eugene, Ore., to race with the NDSU 4x400 relay team at the NCAA Championships on Wednesday, June 8.
FARGO, N.D. — Cody Roder never expected to be in this position.
After a stellar career with the Bemidji High School boys track and field team that included a 2017 state championship in the 4x800-meter relay, Roder opted to continue his running career at North Dakota.
Flash forward four years, and he’s now wrapping up his college career at rival North Dakota State with a trip to Eugene, Ore., to race with the NDSU 4x400 relay team at the NCAA Championships on Wednesday, June 8.
“It's pretty cool,” Roder said. “Can’t say I ever thought I’d make it (to the championships).”
Roder’s 4x400 team earned a trip to Eugene by breaking the school record in the event at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds on May 27, finishing in 3:05.57. This bested their previous record-breaking effort, achieved 13 days earlier at the Summit League Championships, by almost two seconds.
The Bison finished third in their heat, clinching the final automatic qualifying spot for the national meet. Roder ran the anchor leg of the relay in 45.21 seconds.
Roder’s team marked the first time a North Dakota State 4x400 group has advanced to the NCAA Championships at the Division I level.
“We had a pretty up-and-down season,” Roder said. “We'd run really well, and then the next meet would be super windy. And one meet, we dropped the baton. We always kind of knew we were going to at least pop off at some point. But it wasn't until conference that we had finally done that. And then last week, we went even faster, so it’s been pretty sweet.”
The NDSU team has already accomplished a lot this season by simply reaching nationals, but they’re not satisfied with that. After all, they’ve earned a coveted opportunity to achieve even more Wednesday night by turning in another record-breaking time – and they plan on taking full advantage.
The race, featuring 24 teams, is scheduled for 9:48 p.m. Central and will be televised on ESPN2. The top two finishers in each heat, plus the next three fastest times overall, will advance to the finals on Friday, June 10.
“We know it's going to be fast,” Roder said. “Because those top (nine) times that move on, it's not going to be a joke. But we've stepped up every time that we've needed to this year, and I don't really see a scenario where we're completely out of it.”
Roder’s group has already faced a number of teams competing at the championships this season, including some top contenders to take home the 4x400 title. They’re the only non-Power Five group in their heat, but that doesn’t faze them, since they’ve already seen what those teams can do this year.
“In our heat, there's a pretty big clump of teams at 3:03,” Roder said. “And then we're at like 3:05. Top two advance. So when we go out there, we're going to be shooting for that. Really, whatever the time would be doesn't really matter too much anymore. We're just more going for placing. We're not really scared of these other teams. We've raced them all year. We definitely respect them, but we’re not too scared.”
Winding road to Fargo
Roder opted to attend North Dakota to run track out of high school and spent his first year of college in Grand Forks. It soon became apparent that he wanted to make a change.
“I don't know if I was really ready to make my decision on where I wanted to go to college (at the end of high school),” Roder said. “I didn't really know everything that goes into the background of college athletics. UND, I enjoyed it there, but I just didn't really fit the track team.”
So, Roder entered the transfer portal after his freshman season. He was accepted by NDSU one day before the Fighting Hawks joined the Summit League, just barely ensuring that he wouldn’t have to sit out for a year before resuming competition.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I knew we were going to be able to at least compete for a conference championship,” Roder said. “NDSU certainly had the track record for it. I had friends in the area already, and I just thought it would be a better fit.”
He had success in his first three years with the Bison, but in his final season, he and his teammates have taken their performance to a different level.
“This has really been the first year that I’ve stayed completely injury free for the whole year,” Roder said. “So I think that's definitely helped in putting it all together. But I was lucky enough to come in with a pretty strong class that was the year under me. Having a good training group of guys to work with – we did the work, so we finally turned it around this year.”
The group he works with at NDSU sometimes reminds him of his state champion 4x800 relay foursome at BHS – and he credits his formative years with the Lumberjacks for teaching him what a good team culture looks like.
“I definitely learned how to run on a relay at Bemidji,” Roder said. “And I think I've carried that with me. It's not one guy that's going to be able to make that team (succeed), it's multiple. So when you get that good training group, like I had in high school – and then I found another one in college – it's the old saying, iron sharpens iron. I think that's probably one of the biggest things that I've taken with me.”