After year away from circle, Erickson back in the swing

Senior thrower Karl Erickson ruptured his quadricep while redshirting last year.

David McCoy

Karl Erickson isn’t letting anything stand in the way of winning a Big Ten title.

Not even a patch of ice.

Erickson, a senior on Minnesota’s men’s track and field team, redshirted both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year in hopes of refining his technique to make a strong push at a Big Ten team title this year.

But that never got to happen.

What was supposed to be only a month off for minor knee surgery to remove scar tissue and make his kneecap smaller turned into a nearly yearlong ordeal because of one small impatient mistake.

Doctors told Erickson it was OK to walk, but to wear a brace if he walked on ice. Two weeks later, he ignored the order, slipped, caught himself and partially ruptured his quadricep.

“He didn’t get to throw at all last spring,” men’s throwing coach Scott Bennett said. “From the time he had the second surgery in February, he didn’t get to throw until this fall again. In an event that is as feel-oriented as this is, that’s kind of like starting from scratch again.”

The pair of surgeries ruined more than just his track and field plans.

Erickson, who played football at Rochester Century High School and received Division II college offers, had been planning to try out for the Gophers football team as a defensive end.

At 270 pounds, Erickson certainly has the size, the athletic ability and the speed, but he got only as far as three pre-spring football conditioning practices before having to go in for the second surgery.

“I wanted to give it a shot, just because they had been asking me to come out and try,” Erickson said. “It could have gone well. I could have really enjoyed it. But I’m content right now just throwing. I don’t have any regrets.”

He’s still battling pain as result of the injury, but it appears to not have held him back so far this season.

Erickson was the Big Ten’s Athlete of the Week this week for the third time this season and fourth in his career – the most in school history – after breaking Minnesota’s 10-year-old discus record at the Mesa Classic in Mesa, Ariz., with a throw of 200 feet, 6 inches.

“We had just flown down and we had landed like three hours before the meet started,” Erickson said. “I got something to eat and I was ready to take a nap, and then it was time to throw. So I don’t think I was in my favorable state to compete. But it happened.”

Erickson and Bennett said the winds at the classic were perfect conditions for a record-breaking throw.

“I haven’t seen winds like that in 30 years of coaching,” Bennett said. “It was amazing. It was too strong for the women’s disc, but it was good for the men’s disc, especially if you knew how to play the wind. I’ve seen it in practice, but I haven’t seen it in a practice environment where everything just lined up and it was just perfect.”

Bennett said Erickson knew how to use the wind to his full advantage, even though he didn’t have the advantage of full health.

Erickson still can’t squat, something that plays a vital part in being able to throw well.

He hasn’t hit his full potential yet. And that’s something Erickson will keep striving for.

“I feel like I’m still trying to get into my routine of competing,” Erickson said. “I feel like I forgot stuff that I used to do. I’m working on getting back into a competitive state of mind. It’s weird taking time off from something like that and it takes you a little while to get back into it.”