Bryce Malsam is an overcomer. Put an obstacle in his path and he will find a way to hurdle over it.
The Northern State senior track and field standout is in the process of wrapping up a stellar career in the sport. From start to finish, Malsam has used hard work, determination and ingenuity to set himself apart.
It started back at Edmunds Central High School when Malsam found some old hurdles that he set up in a shop on the family farm.
“There were some old school hurdles back when it was just Roscoe High School that we found in the storage garage,” Malsam said. “That’s how we basically started off.”
It was only fitting that those out of date hurdles would be the tools that Malsam trained on to turn himself into one of the premiere hurdlers in the state. That simplistic underdog role fit him perfectly. Still does.
“Me and my coach back in the day in high school, we talked about how a small school, we maybe don’t have all the resources, but sometimes that just drives you a little stronger to try and compete with these big AA schools,” Malsam said.
Soon Malsam became unbeatable in the hurdles, winning multiple state championships, including a gold medal one year, meaning the athlete that came from a graduating class of six, had a faster time than hurdlers from any other school in South Dakota.
Along the way, Malsam started dabbling in other events paving the way for his future.
“We would do the 110 hurdles, the 300-meter hurdles and every so often we would pick up the high jump, we’d pick up a long jump, maybe a triple jump if we were feeling it,” Malsam recalled.
That diverse background laid the foundation for his time at Northern where he became the school’s top athlete in the heptathlon, a combination of a variety of events from sprints to pole vault.
Again, Malsam overcame others who looked more fit for the part.
“It’s one of those things where when I tell people I have cleared 6-8 in high jump,” Malsam said, “they look at me at about 5-11, 210 pounds and say ‘Really, you can get up that high?’ “
Malsam uses his moxie and technique to offset what he lacks in size and stature.
“I’ve competed against a few NSIC multi (athletes) that you can see that they just have raw potential, strength, speed, but what sets me apart sometimes is the pole vaulting,” Malsam said. “Some people can get it to click and some people just can’t.”
He is quick to credit NSU vault coach Wade Royer for helping him in that particular event.
While the hurdles and jumps are no problem for Malsam, the 1,500-meter race is a different story.
“That definitely separates some of the boys from the men,” Malsam said, “and I’ll tell you what, sometimes I feel like a boy out there running with them.”
Last season, Malsam qualified for the NCAA Division II National Indoor Meet in the multis. It was the verification of years of hard work and training. It’s something, like winning that gold medal in the hurdles, that Malsam will always remember.
“I’m a little bit bigger and a little shorter than some of the multis. Being able to get to the national level, that’s one of the things that sticks out, too,” Malsam said. “It drives you a little bit more when you see other guys that are 6-4 and look in a lot better shape, but when it comes to some of the technique, you have to get every point that you can.”
Unfortunately, Malsam never got a chance to compete in that national meet as COVID wiped it out. It appeared that Malsam’s career had come to an end without a true finish. He had decided it was time to walk away.
“At the end of the indoor season, we just figured we’d leave on a high note. We made it to nationals,” Malsam said. “From a small town school that graduated six kids in the graduating class, we figured making it to a national DII level in the multi, that would be good enough to hang it up on.”
Then Malsam attended a few practices last fall and the juices started flowing again.
“It’s one of those things where the bug just starts to hit you a little bit,” Malsam said. “I didn’t want to leave a season left on the table and look back 10-20 years later and wonder what could have happened if I would have come back out for the outdoor season.”
So now Malsam finds himself gearing up for one last flurry. His final home meet takes place Saturday at Swisher Field and the conference meet is coming up. He is not sure what to expect.
“Every day we try and do a little bit more and get a little bit better,” he said. “We may have peaked last year for the indoor conference, but we’ll see here.”
Malsam has not had the benefit of competing in almost a year which has taken a toll on his body.
“We’ve been dealing with a few injuries, just one of those things when you don’t get the first semester of preseason,” he said. “We know we’ve trained enough in the past four years with the technique. What we need to do now is just get back into it physically.”
Malsam admits he has a new challenge ahead of him for the first time in his career. It’s no longer about proving that he belongs, it’s more about proving that he still has something left.
“This is the first year that I actually haven’t had an ultimate goal to look forward to and say this is what I need to do to prove to myself that I can actually perform at this level,” Malsam said. “I think what we’re trying to do is show up to the meets and show that I’m not quite washed up and I have a little bit more left to give.”
After a bit more education to finish up a Commodities Marketing degree, Malsam plans to return to the family farm near Roscoe and become the family’s fourth generation farmer. He will likely use the same traits that has vaulted him to success in sports – discipline, self-motivation and hard work – in his new role on the farm.
Malsam said it takes all of those elements as well as solid coaching to be able to reach your potential.
Sometimes, that incudes being an overcomer.
“You can be the best athlete you want to be,” Malsam said. “but it’s definitely coaches – and I’ve had great coaches – that have seen the potential in me and pushed me to that next level, to be able to pursue what I wanted to and maybe even past what I thought was even capable.”
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