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DWU sports make fieldhouse feel like home

EDITORS' NOTE: The following story is the first in a three-part series on the impact of the new Corrigan Fieldhouse at Dakota Wesleyan University and its effect on Tiger athletics.

Dakota Wesleyan track athletes run along the track inside the Dakota Wesleyan/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan track athletes run along the track inside the Dakota Wesleyan/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)

EDITORS' NOTE: The following story is the first in a three-part series on the impact of the new Corrigan Fieldhouse at Dakota Wesleyan University and its effect on Tiger athletics.

It's going to be a while before the smile leaves the face of Dakota Wesleyan track and field and cross country coach Derik Fossum.

That's because Fossum and his team are no longer hurdling in hallways and fighting for practice space. Instead, they can call the new Glenda and Fritz Corrigan Fieldhouse and Athletic Institute home.

The building includes three indoor multipurpose sport courts, a 200-meter track, a new wrestling room and athletic training space, all of which Tiger players, coaches and supporters hope will lift the profile of DWU athletics in the process.

Track and field might be among the most excited of DWU's programs. Fossum - who graduated from DWU and is in his eighth total year with the program - said the school becomes just the fourth in the GPAC to have a 200-meter indoor track of its own (Concordia, Dordt and Nebraska Wesleyan are the others.).

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"The building really sells itself, once kids get in here," Fossum said. "There's not much we need to say."

Both Fossum and DWU athletic director Curt Hart hope the new building helps spur large growth in the track and field programs. Hart said he would like to see a track and field program that has as many as 80 athletes in the future. Currently, there are 39 Tiger runners after numbers in the low 30s last year. Fossum said he would expect the roster to be around 50 athletes by the 2016-17 season.

"We've seen better numbers in recruiting and I'm excited to see what can happen with this building and once we get students in here," Fossum said.

Fossum is among the DWU coaches who expect to see benefits from the $16 million facility.

"This place is dynamite," said DWU golf coach Chris Gomez. "This is what coaches dream of."

Gomez said he's hopeful the new building will help the golf programs draw more athletes, specifically on the women's side, where numbers are currently low.

"I'm working my tail off right now," he said. "I've been talking this place up but I think until they see it, I'm going to be stuck."

Along with the track and field team, wrestling has a permanent home with a new wrestling room. Interim head coach Nick Hutcheson said gone are the days of rolling out wrestling mats on the gym floor at L.B. Williams Elementary School for practice.

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"We have something to call our own," he said. "I think that means a lot for our kids, knowing that it's their space and we're done rolling out mats."

Hart said the building should help the school add men's and women's tennis in the near future, possibly as early as 2017-18. The program would have year-round practice space and would bring the number of varsity sports at DWU up to 15.

"That's a plan that we have right now," he said. "We have some aspirations of adding sports but we don't have aspirations of cutting sports. You have to find a coach and see what recruiting base we would have. Some schools have started it, some schools have dropped it, some schools have started it and dropped it. If we're going to do it, we want to make sure it's going to be successful."

On Monday, a handful of DWU golfers were working on 50-yard chip shots, attempting to hit a target a little larger than a frisbee. About an hour later, the Tigers' softball team was inside the netting in the fieldhouse. Working on one half of the building, the Tigers were working on infield drills and also catching pop flies during practice. On the outside of the building, the track and field team was running on the track and using the field event space.

Softball coach Ed Kieff said being able to do a full infield practice inside the fieldhouse makes things much easier when contending with South Dakota's unpredictable weather. Hart said multiple teams practicing at once wasn't ever possible in the past.

"I think it will have a huge impact as we bring in recruits, especially with track and wrestling," Hart said. "It's going to make a big impact. It got to a point where we were practicing from 5 a.m. to midnight and that just wasn't a good deal."

Fossum is selling a dream, one that he was thinking about when the Canton native first came to DWU as a track student-athlete.

"This has been a dream of mine since I was a freshman in college, that we could have a place that we could call our own, a place that we could work out in and make the most of our possibilities," Fossum said. "It's incredible that the conversations with our athletes have moved from that we're going to make the most of our abilities in the situation we're in to we're going to do the best we can to make the most of our ability. That's what this building has done for us."

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The Dakota Wesleyan women's softball team practices inside the Corrigan Fieldhouse on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)
The Dakota Wesleyan women's softball team practices inside the Corrigan Fieldhouse on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Related Topics: NAIA
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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