SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – As much respect as Trajan Walhof has for Nick Phelps, the Sioux Center High School senior is making it known that there is more than one standout thrower in Northwest Iowa.
It’s a well-established fact that Kingsley-Pierson/Woodbury Central’s Phelps is a dominant force in both the discus and shot put. Walhof, though, has already proven he’s no slouch, either.
Walhof, The Journal’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week, hasn’t had much of an opportunity to compete this season -- nor have any other athletes in this area -- because of prolonged bad weather. But the sturdy Warrior has made the most of his chances, despite the poor conditions.
On his first throw in the Bob Guhin Invitational at Olsen Stadium on Thusday, Walhof established a personal best and school record with a discus spin of 168-4. He had already qualified for the Drake Relays in both the discus and shot put and was a fifth-place finisher in last year’s state meet.
“I’ve been working on this since seventh grade,” Walhof said. “I struggled in middle school but once I got to high school I started getting things figured out and it’s been a lot of fun.”
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Walhof has always been one of the biggest boys in his class, so naturally he gravitated to the weight events in track and field. His father, Eric, was a thrower at Southwest Christian (Minn.) High School, which provided additional motivation.
“It’s been a long process and a lot of work but it’s been a lot of fun trying to better yourself every day,” Walhof said. “It’s something I really enjoy. For me a lot of it comes down to confidence, when you step in the ring and have really good confidence that this is going to fly really far. It is really a mental thing.”
Speaking of mental, Walhof realizes he’s up against nearly insurmountable odds when he competes against Phelps. Phelps is the two-time defending state champion who recently registered throws of 196-2 in the discus and 66-5.5 in the shot put, which each rank first in Drake Relays qualifying.
“It’s always good because it brings out a competitive spirit in you, but it’s always kind of hard,” Walhof said. “He’s just so good. It’s impressive and I really respect him because he’s put a lot of time into it. I know he’s been throwing since a way younger age than I have and deserves to be where he is today.”
Sioux Center Coach Brock Lehman says his senior standout is extremely driven.
“In terms of his senior year he’s had a great year, he had a great football season and a good basketball season and he’s continuing that trend along with track.” Lehman said. “Kids like that are what make a small school pop. We really pride ourselves in producing those kind of kids. They work hard for four years and are really involved in stuff. For that to all come together when he’s a senior has been fun to see.”
South Dakota State made the 18-year-old son of Eric and Stephanie Walhof a preferred walk-on football offer and he accepted that over a number of offers from other schools. He’ll play defensive tackle for the Jackrabbits.
Walhof was a top reserve for Sioux Center’s 18-5 boys basketball team this winter. He is off to a fast start to his final prep track season as well.
“The biggest thing about him is that he is an absolute student of the sport,” Lehman said. “With any sport if you’ve got a kid with potential and a great work ethic and a few breaks go his way and he stays healthy, good things are going to happen for that kid.”
A story that comes to mind for Lehman was when Walhof was a sophomore he just missed going to state.
“I was getting district results from across the state before the state published the list and he’d come in before every class period and we were counting down the number of spots left,” recalled Lehman. “When he came in that last time you could tell by the look on my face that I’d seen the results and he just missed going to state. That was really hard on him but it really drove him as a junior to not miss the cut.”
Walhof has gained a wealth of knowledge from working with Andrew Hobson, the Warriors’ throwing coach who competed at Arizona State University.
On target to be one of several co-valedictorians of his graduating class, Walhof plans to study mechanical engineering at South Dakota State.
The immediate future, though, involves getting prepared for this weekend’s Drake Relays where he’ll throw against the state’s best, including Phelps.
“I think it’s always a good goal to get to the finals because when you get down there and get three extra throws anything can happen,” Walhof said. “It’s a pretty high goal competing against the best in the state but I know if I perform to the best of my ability I think I will find myself in the top 8.”
Meghan Hettinga, MOC-Floyd Valley…Won the shot put with a season-best 40-9 heave at the Bob Guhin Invite and also won the discus at 121-5. Hettinga has qualified for the Drake Relays in both events.
Trey Goettsch, River Valley….After a three-year absence from track and field, Goettsch won the high jump at the Gregg Beam Invitational at West Harrison.