Max Otterdahl closed out his high school career as a weight thrower with a dominating double in the Class 2A state meet in early June. Otterdahl’s distance of 64 feet, 4 inches won the shot put by 7 feet, and his distance of 191 feet, 4 inches won the discus by nearly 15 feet.
Max was preceded at Rosemount High School by his brothers, Payton and Trevor, and admitted this week that he always was aware of their top marks as they advanced through the Rosemount program.
“I was able to top their distances as freshmen, sophomores, juniors and now seniors,” Max said. “It’s a friendly rivalry.”
Payton concluded his college eligibility at North Dakota State on the same weekend that Max was getting his Minnesota sweep. He was at the NCAA Division I championships in Austin, Texas, finishing second in the discus by 2 inches and fourth in the shot put. This followed an indoor season when he became NDSU’s first-ever individual champion in a Division I event by sweeping the shot put and the 35-pound weight throw.
“Max broke my school records at Rosemount, shattered them, and I absolutely was happy for him,” Payton said. “Now, there are handsful of records to break at NDSU, records that I worked very hard for five years to put there. And I’d like to keep those for a long time.”
Payton had a shot put-discus double for Rosemount in the 2014 Class 2A final. He considered the Gophers, Iowa State and South Alabama as college options. In the end, he chose NDSU due to facilities, and a firm belief that the Bison throwing coach, Justin St. Clair, was the best option to turn him into a collegiate standout.
This was St. Clair’s eighth season at NDSU, and one of his early throwing stars was Brandt Berghuis, another Rosemount grad.
“Brandt was doing good things, and he had nothing but great things to say about Justin and the opportunity NDSU gave to its athletes to succeed,’’ Payton said.
Berghuis’ fine experience helped create an Otterdahl pipeline for NDSU: First Payton in the fall of 2014, then Trevor in the fall of 2017, and now Max arriving as a freshman.
Cory Otterdahl, the father, is 6 feet 2 and scored 2,000 points playing basketball at Dakota State in Madison, S.D. Payton is 6-4, Trevor is 6-6 and Max is 6-8. Cory’s brother Andy has a 6-8 son, Mason, a recently graduated basketball star at Northfield.
“It’s amazing: My dad [Tom] had five siblings and they were all short, with short spouses,” Cory said. “My dad was 6-foot-2 and they said he had to be the milkman’s son. And then came the tall grandkids. He used to call it the ‘O-Train.’ ”
Tom Otterdahl started playing college basketball at Normandale Community College in his late 20s, and was an excellent player at St. Thomas in his 30s. “Otts’’ still was playing in his regular noontime pickup game three days before dying from heart disease in June 2017.
Tom was in the concrete business. Andy ran the business with him. Cory was an educator and worked in concrete in summers until 2010. Now, he’s in the concrete business. And that means the O-Train — Payton, Trevor and Max — has been building muscles while wielding concrete blocks in the summers.
“My grandpa was a hard worker and toughest guy ever,” Max said. “One day he was walking across a beam, slipped and crashed, snapped the humerus in his arm, winced a little, and got in his car and drove to the emergency room.”
Payton was 220 as a senior at Rosemount. Endless lifting and a robust diet now have him at 295. Trevor is 270 pounds. Max is 260 and there’s much more muscle to put on that frame.
Shannon Otterdahl, Cory’s ex-wife, was asked about feeding the O-Train and said: “They were involved in athletics year-round — football, wrestling, basketball, throwing — and always came home hungry. I’d guess $700, maybe $750, a month on groceries at Sam’s Club.”
Cory lived a mile away. “The boys loved my wings off the grill,” he said. “Sixty or 70 of them. I’d just keep cooking.”
Payton currently is rated in a tie for 12th in the IAAF world rankings in the shot put. At 23, he’s the second youngest in the top 16. He is fourth among U.S. shot putters, behind Ryan Crouser (26), Darrell Hill (25) and Joe Kovacs (30).
“I got to meet all those guys last week in Des Moines,’’ Max said. “I was awe-struck.’’
The national championships were held last week in Des Moines. Payton turned pro while there, signing a contract with Nike. He wound up finishing sixth in the shot put.
Payton received a national coaches award as the National Indoor Field Scholar Athlete of the Year last week.
Trevor is the real brainiac in the family. He turned down Stanford, Princeton and Penn. He has a degree in actuary science after two years at NDSU. He’s recovering from labrum surgery on both hips. The indoor weight throw has become his best event.
Payton and Max were wrestlers and football players as well as throwers. Trevor was a tackling machine in football and a basketball player.
Max didn’t play football last fall, preferring a more intense weightlifting schedule. He had to put on more muscle to replace his brother at the top of the Rosemount record book.
That’s done, but now comes the tough part: Payton’s throwing records at NDSU. Bigger shot, bigger discus, bigger competition.
Payton returned to Fargo early this week with his girlfriend, Maddy Niles, a hammer thrower for NDSU. He’ll be finishing his degree, working out and providing a model for improvement to Trevor and Max as varsity throwers.
“It’s a big family in size, a family that’s built to do athletics,” St. Clair said. “We’re anxious to work with Max. He moves like somebody 6-foot-2, but he has arms that reach across the room.”
Can those arms reach into the NDSU record book to supplant Payton’s impressive throwing marks? That status in O-Train athletic annals will be revealed over the next half-decade.