ABERDEEN, S.D. – This summer, Hanneke Oosterwegel achieved something most people only dream about: She represented her country at the Olympics.
Oosterwegel, a Northern State University Track and Field alumna, was a member of the 4x400 relay team for the Netherlands.
Now, she said she still needs time to truly let the experience sink in.
“Previous Olympics, I have watched on TV and it felt like something magical, but now being there myself I really looked at it as another meet,” said Oosterwegel, a 2019 NSU grad. “We were focused on training and competing; I have not even watched or followed any other sport.”
Even though she treated it like any other meet, Oosterwegel said it clearly wasn’t.
“The atmosphere around the Olympics is insane. Especially the support from friends and family was immense, and nothing like I have experienced before,” she said. “Usually only my track friends check in on me before races, but now my phone was blowing up from all the sweet messages, because to everyone, sport fanatic or not, the Olympics is something special.”
With seven young women on the team, it meant three had to be alternates, including Oosterwegel. They warmed up with their teammates as if they were running, then dropped them off at the call room and made their way to the stadium to watch. Watching her team qualify for finals was great, she said, but also difficult.
“The past weeks we worked hard with a mindset to compete at the Olympics, and not running turned out to be a big anticlimax,” she said. “However, our team qualified with a national record, and improved that time in the finals, so I am very proud, even as an alternate, to be a part of the fastest team my country ever had!”
Oosterwegel has another reason to be proud: her sister, Emma, is also an Olympian.
“I am even more proud of my sister, who won the bronze medal in the heptathlon,” she said. “I am so thankful I got to be there and witness the most dedicated and hard-working person I know achieve the impossible.”
While at Northern, Oosterwegel’s honors with the Wolves include breaking the school record with her 60m hurdles time and being a member of the 4x400 relay that placed third at the NSIC Indoor Championships.
Oosterwegel said her time with the Wolves helped prepare her for the Olympics.
“My time at Northern was crucial for my development as an athlete,” she said. “If I would have gone to college in the Netherlands, I probably wouldn’t have been an athlete anymore.”
In high school, she felt overlooked as an athlete, always comparing herself to others. But that changed at NSU.
“When I came to Northern, the coaches were happy to have me, and especially coach (Lynne) Nacke-Dingman showed from the start that she believed in me, which was something I really needed,” Oosterwegel said. “I evolved during my time at Northern into a confident athlete, and I believe it was mostly due to coach Nacke-Dingman. Her coaching style is now my standard of how I want to be coached.”
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and, soon, an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $150 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.