College Track and Field: Stankiewicz building memorable first season as a Yellowjacket
The 2021 Esko Male Athlete of the Year is currently ranked No. 23 in the NCAA Division III rankings in the shot put and was recently named the UMAC Track and Field Rookie of the Year.
SUPERIOR — In only his first season with the University of Wisconsin-Superior Track and Field team, 2021 Esko graduate Gage Stankiewicz has made quite the impression as a new member of the Yellowjackets.
The recently named Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Track and Field Rookie of the Year has been a fixture at the top of the leaderboards at multiple events over the course of the season as an accomplished thrower, and is currently ranked No. 23 nationally in the shot put.
Back in March, Stankiewicz represented the Yellowjackets at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in the shot put where he placed 12th with a mark of 15.05 meters in his final throw of the event.
UWS head coach Glen Drexler identified Stankiewicz’s humble approach upon arriving to campus, along with his unending desire to improve as the keys to his highly successful freshman campaign.
“Sometimes (freshmen) feel like they’ve got things figured out, but Gage is not one of those people,” Drexler said. “He knew he had a lot to learn, and he took it upon himself really to kind of push himself in every way (and) that means learning the finer points. And he’s a technician to begin with.”
Stankiewicz follows in the footsteps of a long line of record-setting throwers in his family, including his cousin Fauston Wirtz and his grandfather Bill Hudspith. Wirtz holds the UWS record in the hammer throw, while Yellowjackets Hall of Famer Hudspith holds the school’s discus record.
When time permits, Stankiewicz still travels to his alma mater’s track facility to get in practice sessions with Hudspith, who remains a major influence on his grandson and his throwing career.
Between his family and the coaching staff at UWS, Stankiewicz has no shortage of outlets to turn to for advice on ways to improve.
“He’s got a lot of resources, and he would pick their brains on every chance he gets. So it’s fun watching him not only test the limits of our coaching staff and what we can offer him, but he continues to test the limits of anybody who will listen as far as being able to answer questions about technique … so it’s pretty impressive,” Drexler said.
Complimenting his finely-tuned throwing mechanics, Stankiewicz puts an equal emphasis on the mental aspect of throwing, which he describes as a bit of a balancing act.
“I think throwing is a huge mental game. Not a single thrower ever said it wasn’t,” Stankiewicz said. “You just gotta be very focused and very relaxed when you throw, but you also gotta find a way to throw powerful too, and not relax too much. So it’s tricky, but with practice you can get pretty good at it.”
The mental aspect extends to the way Stankiewicz approaches each throw in practice and in competition.
“The key for competition is being as consistent as you can so that you can almost just relax and let your technique take control, because you’re gonna go through practices, that’s when you focus on things. That’s when you think about stuff,” Stankiewicz explained.
With the outdoor season nearing its end, Stankiewicz is eyeing another appearance at the Division III NCAA Track and Field Championships where he will look to earn his spot with strong showings at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Final Qualifier.
With a long list of accomplishments already on his resume, the sky is the limit for Stankiewicz in what he can achieve in the years ahead.
“It will take work on his technique, it will take work in the weight room, it will take work in all phases of it and he’s on board with that,” Drexler said. “He wants to do that and wants to be able to be a national champion, and I don’t think there’s anything that could stop him other than himself, really.”