HUDSON — Dawson Ellingson’s final exam was drawing near.
Realizing last week’s meet schedule would be his final opportunity to qualify for his first Drake Relays, the Hudson throws specialist spent the weekend working with his father in the shot put ring. Tweaking his spin release until the point he felt comfortable, the junior entered Denver’s last-chance meet Thursday knowing he needed to mark at least 52 feet to reach his goal of qualifying for the major all-class meet.
Competitive juices started flowing during warm-ups when a member from another team was consistently peppering the shot past the 50-foot line. Stepping inside the ring with a couple teammates yelling encouragement, Ellingson opened with a personal-record mark of 52-feet, 5-inches. Adrenaline took over from there and his next attempt soared a school record 55-4 1/2, four feet beyond his personal best prior to Thursday.
“I started the spin a month ago and I finally got it to click,” Ellingson said. “I’ve always been a competitive kid. It meant a lot to me. I’ve been working on it over the weekend trying to get the spin down.”
Hudson coach Micah Ruroden is often near the track when the throwers are competing, and happened to witness Ellingon’s school record moment.
“When that thing left his hands, you knew it was a good throw,” Ruroden said. “He had everything down, even to the scream.”
Ellingson’s discus mark of 160-6 set earlier this season in Manchester ranks third in 1A and qualified him for Drake in that event, as well. The two-time state discus qualifier and returning state shot put qualifier is among the first-time competitors set to make his Drake Relays debut Thursday in two events.
“I think it’s just a good opportunity to see how the elite throw,” Ellingson said.
Ruroden has been impressed by the investment Ellingson made to earn his place in the elite field. With the work ethic to match his big frame, his growth has been constant.
“He ended up being a student of it over the years,” Ruroden said. “When my throwing coach first came up to me and said this kid is going to be special, he wasn’t wrong. He’s still got a ceiling that he hasn’t even seen yet.”
Ellingson credits Dick Helling as a early role model first introducing him to the sport. The veteran throws coach who helped bring a tradition of success to Hudson’s boys and girls program retired a couple years ago, but has volunteered to help out.
“Dick was such a positive guy and got you into it,” Ellingson said. “Even if you weren’t good at throwing he just got you into it.”
Current throws coach Clayton Werkman has also been working with Ellingson, who doesn’t have to look far for quality instruction.
“He’s just got that goofy personality, but when he gets up into the competitive realm, he goes for it,” Ruroden said. “The last couple of years he had all the technique in the world, but none of the aggressiveness. He’s started to take on the personality of Coach Helling and Coach Werkman who both continue to work with him. He’s getting that tenacity in him that’s really clicked for him.”
While the task in front of Ellingson at Drake this week is large, it could be a springboard that positions him for more success in the near future. Of the state’s 14 high school shot putters with better throws than Ellingson this season, 13 are seniors.
Only four Iowa competitors junior age or younger have marked better than Ellingson in the discus this season. His 160-6 is just shy of the 162-1 school disc record, a goal Ellingson is hoping to achieve soon in addition to placing at state.
Ellingson’s throws success complements a strong group of middle distance runners on his team, led by Carson Wright who finished third in the 1A 800 a year ago. The Pirates might not have to look far for points in this year’s state meet.
“I see them up there (at the track) running on weekends, too,” Ellingson said. “I think that motivates me to do more just because it shows that they’re working hard too. It’s a good team camaraderie. We all know each other and work hard with each other.”