The Minot State University men's club hockey team has been on the rise for a few seasons, but nothing brings the awards like winning a national championship.
Third-year coach Wade Regier was named American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I Coach of the Year. Goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk was named player of the year. And for finishing 30-4 and winning the first national title in school history, the Beavers are the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association non-school team of the year.
In other awards, University of Oregon middle distance runner Laura Roesler earned the Dakota Award and Bismarck distance runner Jake Leingang was named the non-school athlete of the year.
MDN File Photo
Minot State University goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk, front, earned ACHA Division I Player of the Year honors after the Beavers’ 2013 national championship. The MSU men’s club hockey program was voted the non-school team of the year by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
The Beaver hockey squad is considered a non-school team because hockey is a club sport at MSU, meaning it doesn't receive funds from the athletic department.
"I think the big thing about this year's team was that right from the get-go, the guys came together as a family," Regier said. "I've been a part of many teams as a player and a coach but right from welcome week, there were virtually no cliques at all. With 27 guys, you'll usually have some different cliques."
MSU defeated Lindenwood University (Mo.) 9-5 in the ACHA championship game in March, but nearly didn't make it past the quarterfinals. The Beavers scored game-tying goals twice in the third period before edging Oklahoma 5-4 in overtime.
"That was one of those things that the momentum just kept building and building and building," Regier said. "I think for our whole team we had such confidence ... that we felt like we could win every game. For us to come back and win in such dramatic fashion, it propelled us."
Regier thinks the team's success will help him continue to pluck talent from nearby Canada, among other places.
"At least 75 percent of our guys have had at least five to 10 Division III offers," he said.
Waselenchuk finished 19-2 between the pipes with a 1.94 goals-against average.
This time Laura Roesler doesn't have to share.
After tying with University of Nebraska gymnast Emily Wong and former Colorado basketball player Austin Dufault for the 2012 Dakota Award, Roesler was voted the lone recipient of the 2013 honor by the NDAPSSA. The award is given to North Dakota natives who excel in sports outside of the state.
Roesler, a middle distance runner for track and field powerhouse University of Oregon, set a string of personal records in the past year - including a 2 minute, 0.23 second 800-meter run Sunday to take fifth place at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The former Fargo South star was the top collegian in the event, posting the third-best time in Oregon history and the fourth fastest in Pac-12 history.
"It's really fun to be competing against all these great athletes and racing against the best," said Roesler, who won 22 individual state championships in track and cross country in high school. "It's all a part of my progression. If I want to eventually be running on the world stage, this is all part of the process."
Roesler placed second in the 800 at the NCAA indoor and outdoor national meets. She was also a leg on the Ducks' 1,600-meter relay team, which won a national title in the indoor season and finished fourth in the outdoor championships.
Even with all her success in NCAA races during her junior season, Roesler said winning the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., was the most memorable performance of the past year. She was the only college participant in a field that included five Olympians, a World Championships bronze medalist and a Pan American Games gold medalist.
"That was kind of a big race and a lot of accomplished women in that field," said Roesler, who finished that race in a then-personal best 2:01.75. "For me, it was a big step in the right direction."
Her next challenge will be breaking the two-minute mark, a hurdle Roesler described as more psychological than anything else.
"It will mean a lot to break that because once that barrier is broken, you can break it again and again," she said. "I'm obviously right there, but it's more like a mental barrier, that two-minute mark. Once that's down, anything is kind of possible."
Non-school athlete of the year: Jake Leingang
Recent Bismarck High School graduate Jake Leingang will join Roesler at Oregon next season, and he'll bring some impressive accolades to Eugene.
Leingang has dominated the North Dakota high school distance-running scene the past few years, but he earned the non-school athlete award for his excellence in offseason regional and national meets.
Hours before defending his 5K championship at the New Balance Track & Field Nationals on June 14, Leingang described winning the 2012 title in Greensboro, N.C., as "something I've always dreamed of."
Then he one-upped his dream performance.
Leingang won the 2013 championship in 14:11.61, shaving more than 13 seconds off the previous meet record.
In the past year, Leingang has also won two regional 5K meets, finished third in the Foot Locker national cross country meet and finished in the top three in two national one-mile races.
"I really like to travel so it's a really cool experience to get out to these big meets and competitions," Leingang said. "It's just as fun competing in Bismarck for the team. I like them both in different ways."
Leingang credits his success at high-profile meets with drawing the attention of Oregon recruiters.
"If you can do well at the bigger meets, that shows how good you are," Leingang said. "I don't think (Oregon) would've found me, so I'm really blessed to go out to these bigger meets and kind of get my name out there."
Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school and Legion coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.