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Magstadt’s determination to win

Dickinson State senior Nathan Magstadt detests losing.

The thought of not winning his track and field events not only makes him cringe, but fuels his desire to be the best.

However, there is one moment which has driven the Dickinson native more than any other: missing a NAIA national championship in the 400-meter hurdles by four-hundredths of a second.

“I didn’t watch the race again on the Internet for two months after it happened,” Magstadt said about last season’s outdoor championship race.

But after a successful regular season and clinching the No. 1 spot in the NAIA in the 400 hurdles, Magstadt has one last shot to claim that national title.

Over the past four years, Magstadt has put together an impressive resume and is one of the most successful runners on the team, and has made himself a prime example of a leader. He is a two-time academic all-American and a four-time all-American — excluding his senior year — won the 400 hurdles at the highly competitive Howard Wood Relays his freshman and senior years, along with last season’s national runner-up finish.

Magstadt has competed in track since his middle school days at the Hope Christian Academy, but running hurdles was completely accidental. In the fifth grade, Magstadt competed in the 400-meter race in the Hershey’s Track and Field Meet and in his lane were two extra hurdles a meet worker had forgot to remove.

“They told me I couldn’t get out of my lane and I said I’m not going to get disqualified,” Magstadt said. “So I jumped the hurdles in the race, I got third and was really mad because I was winning. I told my mom I’d never run hurdles ever again in my life.”

Since then, Magstadt found his groove and has become a powerful force on the track and a vital asset to DSU’s team the past four years.

To get to where he is today, Magstadt has credited his hatred for losing to push himself to where he wanted to go and beyond his own expectations.

When asked where his competitive level stands during a meet, Magstadt easily ranked himself at a 10 out of 10.

“I just love that feeling of uneasiness and not knowing,” he said with a smile. “But the cool thing about track is, it is a team sport. But at the end of the day, if you compete well, it was on you. If you beat the guy next to you, it was on you. But if you lose, that’s on you too. It’s kind of just like my stuff against your stuff. Let’s go.”

DSU head track and field coach Mike Nekuda added: “More than anybody I’ve seen, he’s been performing well all season, but when he gets to nationals, it just skyrockets. It’s pretty cool watching him and it just shows. He steps up to the competition.”

After finally watching the video of last season’s championship race, Magstadt didn’t let it fade from his memory. He kept it buried in the back of his mind and used it as motivation to finish his DSU running career on top.

On his own willpower, practices became tougher and his boundaries were pushed to the limits all in the name of chasing first place.

“Coming so close, it just left a bad taste in my mouth but it was also really motivating this year,” Magstadt said. “There was a lot of times in practice I was really tired or really sore or just like man, I don’t want to do this. Then I would look back and say, this could be four-hundredths of a second. … If you do this, you’re that much closer to not losing the race.”

With that motivation came a goal for the season: win a national title. Magstadt sets himself a goal each season and there has never been a case where he hasn’t met one. As a freshman, he wanted to score a point at nationals and did so after coming in eighth. During his sophomore year, he wanted to finish in the top five — he finished fourth — and last year he aimed to be top three.

“I just couldn’t be happier for him,” former track and field head coach Pete Stanton said.

Stanton has been working with Magstadt this season with the hurdles.

“He exemplifies what we want in our program and what we always wanted at Dickinson State, as far as a wonderful individual, a role model for a citizen and yet such a competitor in so many ways,” Stanton said.

Magstadt does have history and statistics on his side, however his physical state may hinder him come race day.

After going 10 years without a single injury, Magstadt suffered a grade 1 strain on his hamstring during the 400 relay at the North Star Conference Meet on May 9. As a precaution, Magstadt was limited in his workouts and did more rehabbing to avoid aggravating the injury. As a result, he has decided to drop out of competing in his other two qualified events — the 400 relay and 110 hurdles — and focus solely on his best event, the 400 hurdles.

“We’ll just see how he bounces back, it’s kind of up in the air right now,” Nekuda said. “One thing I guarantee is he’s bringing everything he’s got. Now is that enough? I don’t know. We will see and that’s the only thing we can do.”

But as the last official race of his competitive career, Magstadt’s fighting spirit won’t allow him to fold and will keep up with his opponents.

“I’ll be sad when (I realize) this is my last competitive college meet. … But I told the guys, I want it more than these guys, the guys I’m racing against,” Magstadt said. “They want it too, but this is my last hurrah and, being so close, I want this race. I want to be a national champion. Whatever happens. If I lose or whatever I’ll be happy.

“I could not even run the race and be blessed beyond measure. But obviously with this opportunity, and it being my last race and being there so many times … I want to win this thing for once.”

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.