Johnie Sanders’ time at Dickinson State is already supposed to be done.
Before the 2011-12 season, Sanders had committed to spend his final year of college basketball eligibility playing for the Blue Hawks. Then, he ran into eligibility issues that forced him to bail on DSU and return to Northwest Oklahoma State, where he had played his junior season.
When DSU head coach Ty Orton gave Sanders a second chance to be a Blue Hawk last spring, he jumped at the chance.
“I should have been here last year, but things happen for a reason,” Sanders said. “I’m here this year. I’m happy that coach Orton took me back under his wing.”
Derrick Atkins envisions himself, a little less than four years from now, bursting out of the starting blocks at João Havelange Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
It’s a specific picture to paint. But there is nowhere else Atkins wants to be in August 2016 than The Marvelous City on Brazil’s eastern coast. The Dickinson State graduate’s sights are set on representing his native Bahamas in his third consecutive Summer Olympics.
The road there, however, won’t be easy.
At the 2012 Olympics in London last summer, Atkins was one of the few elite track and field athletes competing on the world stage without corporate sponsorship.
The 100-meters sprinter learned the difficulties of trying to navigate the ultra-competitive sport without the help of sponsors after Adidas, a worldwide athletic apparel company, dropped their sponsorship of him in 2010. He had all but disappeared from the international track scene in mid-2010 because of knee injuries and didn’t compete in 2011.
“If you don’t really have a major shoe company or a major sponsor, it’s kind of difficult to maintain the level of performance you need to because of upkeep,” Atkins said. “That’s where most of the expenses go.”
Despite being his own coach and sponsor, the 28-year-old Atkins said his isn’t considering his career on the downslide.
There are two ways to remember the 2012 Dickinson State football season:
One is to forget about it and act like it never happened. The season is over. Bring on the next.
The second, and undoubtedly better, option is for it to be evoked as a lesson learned and as the season which helped the program take a step toward improving in every aspect.
Truth be told, the Blue Hawks’ 2-9 finish in their first season in the Frontier Conference wasn’t entirely unexpected. They came into the season picked to finish second-to-last by the league’s coaches and their projected fifth-string running back, senior Presley Straub, was thrust into a starting role before fall practice even began.
Abby Grove has a certain confidence on the volleyball court. The Dickinson High senior’s poise has been built through both steady and sudden improvements. In Grove’s case, confidence is a new development — and it’s one she and the Midgets have used to their advantage this season.
“I just expect to do well and I want to do good, no matter what,” Grove said. “I figured this year might be a good year for me.”
The 5-foot-10 outside hitter, who was only inserted into the Midgets’ varsity rotation as a contributor halfway through her junior season, is at the top of her game.
Grove has a team-high 357 kills, an average of 11.2 per match and more than double any of her teammates. Senior Ali Moody is second on the team with 175 kills.
Using a powerful and directional spike on her attacks, Grove has accumulated a .308 hitting percentage while also playing well defensively. She is third on her team in digs (232) and aces (40) and has 21 total blocks.
There is something good happening in a noisy room tucked away in the basement of Weinbergen Hall.
Back where very few even lay an eye, in a room encased with brick and typically blasting hard rock music through its lone door, is perhaps Dickinson State’s most consistent program of the past decade — its wrestling team.
This year, the Blue Hawks look like a team that could find its footing early.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on such a talented team, as far as not just wrestling but dedication and focus,” said senior Jesse Hellinger, who is ranked No. 11 in the NAIA and third in the North Region at 184 pounds.
The Blue Hawks enter the year ranked No. 10 in the NAIA and stand a good chance of moving up as the season wears on.