by Jackie Jenson
Photos by Janssen Photography
Shattering records as he goes, Eric VanErp is enjoying a solid senior year in all his sporting endeavors. A three-sport athlete, the Battle Lake High School football and basketball phenom is now setting his sights on track and field, working hard to make a return trip to the Minnesota State High School League Boys and Girls Track and Field Championships in the primary jumping events. The state meet is slated to be held on June 9 and 10.
“I want to jump 46 feet in triple jump, 22 feet in long jump and 6-feet 5-inches in high jump,” explains VanErp. “I’m on track to make those goals.”
A field specialist, VanErp made it to the big meet as a freshman for his high jumping achievements. He describes how going to state so young was a blessing in disguise, an unanticipated ending to an amazing track and field season that year.
“I’ll never forget that meet. It was all so unexpected,” starts VanErp. “I was a freshman, and the section track meet was at Minnesota State University Moorhead. It was just a perfect day. I PR’d (personal record) in high jump by five inches.”
When he overshot his personal best that remarkable day, it was a glide over the bar good enough to send him to state as a ninth grader. As with all state track meets, the competition was fierce, and VanErp did not place. He was, however, able to glean an abundance of practical proficiency from the experience.
“It was not meant to be [that year],” VanErp reflects. “There was little pressure, though. It was such a surprise to go to state. I was not expecting to, so I was able to push everything aside and just jump.”
Embracing an introspective and positive attitude toward his first state high jump outcome, however, helped VanErp make his later return trip to state easier and more productive. Last year as a junior, he made it back to the Minnesota State High School Track and Field Championships, jumping 21 feet, 7 inches in long jump, resulting in sixth place. He also landed a triple jump good enough for second at the 2016 state meet.
Today, as a senior, time is running out on his jumping career. But thanks to a strong work ethic and an amazing ability to handle the pressure, VanErp notes he is taking things as they come, even as the game clock winds down on his high school athletic career.
Says VanErp: “I want to do the best I can do, improving myself. I want to be the very best I can be by the end of the season. That is what is important.”
Thanks to a solid family foundation and a familiar coach at his side, he is confident fate is on his side to make his mark at this year’s state track meet for long jump, triple jump and possibly high jump too.
“My parents have always encouraged me to do my best. They were very active in sports in college. My mom played college volleyball; my dad football. My sister competes in college track and field. She also has been coaching me during the track season.”
After graduation, VanErp has committed to jumping for the North Dakota State University track team. Although he is very excited to unite his track and field passions with that of a new Sports Management major, he admits it will be very different for him to whittle down his sports strivings to one.
“It is very weird, the thought of competing in just one sport next year,” notes VanErp, “But the season is a lot longer [in college] and we train all year.”
Success Beyond the Track
In addition to his accomplishments in the jumping realm, VanErp is also an excellent wide receiver in football and a forward in basketball. VanErp has been active in sports since grade school, and always loved having his brother as an in-house playmate… available at a moment’s notice.
“I’ve been playing basketball since the first grade,” says VanErp. “It was the first thing I learned how to do so I could play with my brother,” explains the baller.
VanErp began his senior sports season last summer with the beginning of football practice. With a variety of achievements, it is safe to say his season started out strongly, raking up 29 receptions for 386 yards during the course of the 2016 season. VanErp also scored nine touchdowns and made seven interceptions, four of which were returned for touchdowns.
Other notable gridiron accolades include being selected as team captain as well as named to the All-Section 6AA and All-District football teams and a Midwest Blue District MVP receiver. Wrapping up his high school football career in the fall, VanErp then switched his focus to basketball.
Senior stats for the basketball forward include scoring 1541 career points and averaging 24 points per game. Shooting 60 percent from the field and 85 percent from the free throw line, VanErp has been named two times to the All Little 8 Conference. He is also the current 2016-17 Little 8 Conference Most Valuable Player and a 2016-17 Academic All-State representative.
“We had a good year on the basketball court,” recalls VanErp. “The season started out a little bumpy, but we came together midway and ended up going into conferences strong.”
Even with all his awards earned throughout his football and basketball seasons, if you asked VanErp which was his favorite accolade this year, he points to Defensive Player of the Year, an award voted on by his teammates.
VanErp credits his athletic success to consistent training throughout the year, especially in the summer. He has worked out at the HUB, a health and wellness program run through Lake Region Health Care in Fergus Falls, for a number of summers now; playing basketball in the morning and football in the afternoons three times a week too.
Active in the National Honor Society, Interact Club, and the Battle Lake High School Band and Jazz Bands, VanErp has as much drive in his academic activities, as his athletic ones. Looking forward he says, “to starting something new,” VanErp is eyeing college with both eager anticipation and a hint of anxious trepidation.
Reflecting on all the inevitable changes that come with being a high school senior, he realizes he will be leaving behind not only a few sports but the many friendly faces, familiar teachers and comfortable classrooms he has been a part of for the last 10 years at Battle Lake, adding it is exciting to have different challenges to face and new people to meet.
“I’ll miss seeing all the people [I know] in the hallways and leaving my friends and teachers – people I have known and had relationships for so long– is going to feel very different.”
But now, with two of his three sports in the books, VanErp is once again looking to the jumping pits to wrap up his sports seasons. This year, however, the high jump bar and scratch lines will hold a bit more finality.
“I am right where I want to be at this point in the track season,” concludes the jumping specialist. “I’m on track to make my [state] goals which keeps me going day to day.”