Bethel NCAA track and field thrower and BUILD student Dylan Delaske competes in the sport he loves and leads the way for others to compete.
By Sebastian Studier
The Bethel University Men’s Track and Field team hosted their first-ever outdoor meet April 15, and one of the athletes competing was Dylan Delaske, a BUILD student and NCAA discus and shot put thrower.
Delaske knew he wanted to throw in college. He told Director of BUILD Dawn Allen about his dream.
Delaske is a second-year student in the BUILD program at Bethel, a program that seeks to provide students with intellectual disabilities with opportunities to grow in areas of independence, relational skills and job skills while living on a college campus.
Also a current NCAA track and field athlete, Delaske competes in shot put and discus due to a blanket waiver passed during the indoor track season of 2021-2022, thanks to the work of himself and his family. This waiver allows students in any NCAA Division III comprehensive transition programs across the nation to immediately compete with NCAA Division III athletes.
Attending Waseca High School, Delaske started out on the JV track team, where everyone was made to do running events such as the 60-meter dash. As he progressed through his high school career, he decided to focus on his newfound passion for throwing.
“I knew if I continued to go all the way through my high school career, I thought I could push myself to go a little bit further,” Delaske said. “I did. And I just fell in love with it.”
Delaske interviewed for the BUILD program in January 2021 and was drawn into Bethel by the existing community and the possibility of living on campus.
When Allen interviewed Delaske for the BUILD program, he came dressed in a button-up shirt, sharing how excited he was about the opportunity to go to Bethel. After his acceptance into the BUILD program, Allen learned of Delaske’s devotion to becoming a college thrower.
“He was determined to do whatever,” Allen said.
Allen works directly with Delaske on a daily basis and says that his love for athletics is larger than life. Allen says that he wants to be a part of every team in some fashion. She sees him as a “teddy bear” for all the right reasons.
“He’s got such a big heart and he’s a sensitive guy,” Allen said. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love a teddy bear, so that’s probably how I see him.”
Delaske was preparing to be part of an inclusion forum April 21-23, 2023, for the NCAA and was bringing his sister with him. Allen jokingly gave Delaske a hard time and asked him why he was not bringing her instead. After she said this, Allen said that she could see not only his face drop but his heart drop too. Delaske immediately began apologizing and questioning his decision. In the midst of all his excitement, Delaske felt terrible about the possibility of leaving someone out.
“He has this sweet, sensitive spirit and he wants to be inclusive to everyone and kind to everyone and if he feels like he hasn’t, it just strikes him to the core,” Allen said.
Over the weekend of April 21-23, Delaske attended the NCAA Inclusion Forum in Indianapolis and was able to tell his story to others, which Head Coach of Bethel Track and Field Andrew Rock viewed as one of Delaske’s finest moments.
“He’s had a lot of great moments, but I think him getting to travel to the NCAA headquarters here recently to represent Bethel and the BUILD program is such a huge highlight,” Rock said.
Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Gretchen Hunt was instrumental in the process of getting Delaske eligible to compete and getting the blanket waiver passed. Working in compliance, Hunt assists athletes who have an obstacle blocking them from participating in NCAA athletics and helps them find a way.
Hunt originally worked with Delaske and his family to complete an individual waiver for Delaske to participate, which was a time-consuming and intrusive process requiring many elements – past medical records, various academic transcripts and long-winded letters explaining why Delaske should be able to compete.
After Delaske’s waiver was completed, the blanket waiver for all NCAA Division III comprehensive transition program athletes to compete was passed.
Hunt views Delaske as a hard-working person after seeing him work through this process.
“I heard somewhere along the way that when someone asked him what was the hardest thing about being a student athlete, he said the paperwork,” Hunt said. “And I know what he means by that. The initial waiver he had to do was a lot of work on Dylan’s part to advocate for himself and say, ‘Here’s why I should get to participate.’”
“It was a whole summer’s worth,” Delaske said.
Allen remembers Delaske actually debating whether or not all of the paperwork was worth it. She could see him struggling with the decision at times and wondering if he was actually wanted or not due to the difficulty of the process.
“I think the piece that helped motivate him to think that it was worth it was that he knew if we got his appeal approved, then we’d be eligible to be considered for a broader program appeal,” Allen said. “And so he thought, it’s worth it because it’s for more than just me.”
During the process of completing the waiver, Delaske said that he kept his hope up, even through all of the suspense and waiting he had to endure.
“It took a lot of patience to finally hear if I even got approved,” Delaske said. “It’s paving that way for others to get a chance to be a part of any athletics. Not just track and field, but other sports that other students like me can also take part in.”
Hunt is proud that the BUILD program at “little Bethel” opened the door for anyone similar to Delaske across the country to compete in the sports they love.
“It’s really hard to make rosters wherever you are, but there are athletes that should be doing that and maybe weren’t able to before, and that makes me sad as someone who loves athletics,” Hunt said.
Hunt also does not want people to think that anyone has done any favors for Delaske in his journey to becoming an NCAA athlete. They simply helped remove some barriers for Delaske to get the opportunity to compete in NCAA athletics, but Delaske still had to put in all the work in order to get where he is today.
“Dylan is a collegiate athlete because he’s worked very hard at a technical sport,” Hunt said.
When he’s competing, Delaske’s character shines through to many, including Rock.
“Dylan is a valuable part of the track team and we love and appreciate his work ethic, his character and how he treats his teammates in such a positive way,” Rock said. “He is a huge blessing to us.”
Around campus, Delaske is called “the busy man” by fellow BUILD students. With traditional schoolwork, BUILD program activities and training, team lifts, practices and track meets, Delaske still thinks he finds a balance between everything filling his calendar. He attributes this balance to the track team, which functions as an outlet and a place of belonging for Delaske.
“If I’m having a hard day at school, I can go to practice and be with this group of athletes and get my mind off of all the stress,” Delaske said. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”
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