By Jeffrey Cool, Guest Writer
Dennis Eriksson’s passion for track and field grew in a practice field in Sweden, thousands of miles away from Riverdale.
The jumper for Manhattan College’s track and field team is from Sundsvall, Sweden, where he fell in love with the sport when he was six years old after one of his friends took him to a practice.
“Track and field is who I am,” said Eriksson.
Around the ages of 14 and 15, Eriksson started to feel that he had to take himself to the next level if he wanted to go somewhere in track and field.
“I wanted to put all of my energy into the sport and when I was 16, I moved to a specialized track and field school,” Eriksson said.
Eriksson attended Lugnetgymnasiet, a school that was not that close to Eriksson’s family. Eriksson did not let that faze him, because he was focused on pushing himself in the sport of track and field and taking himself to that next level.
After graduation, Eriksson had to figure out what he wanted to do. Trying to combine school and sports back home was not something that was as manageable as it could have been in the United States, so Erikson was forced with a decision.
“In Sweden, many kids drop out because they cannot manage both school and sports at the same time,” said Eriksson.
Eriksson started to apply to schools in the United States in 2013, and he was accepted to Manhattan College in 2014. Eriksson was very interested in Manhattan due to the conference that it plays in, which he thought would offer much competition. He also loves New York City, so when he was accepted, it was a no brainer that he was coming.
Having already moved away from his family in high school, Eriksson did not have a tough time doing it again. Even though he misses them, he wants to be in the U.S., and his family supports him very much so. The only real problem that Eriksson faced was English not being his first language.
“I had such a hard time the first three months,” said Eriksson. “I had straight A’s in high school except for English.”
Eriksson did not let this affect him though, and turned things around after those first three months. He admits he hates being bad at things, so he focused on learning English and improving. In the track field, Eriksson shares the same mentality. It is one of the reasons why he is the team captain.
“He is always positive,” said Lina Bengtson, a thrower for the women’s track and field team. “He will put the music on at practice and just always brings a good vibe to the team. He’s just a good, happy person. If anyone needs something, they will always go to him.”
Eriksson is highly praised by many people, including his teammates and coaching staff, who say that Eriksson’s best asset is his leadership.
But his personality was also a big part of why Dan Mecca, head coach of the track and field program wanted him to be a part of the team.
“Hard worker, good athlete, team leader are the things that come to mind right away when I think of Dennis and that is why he is the team captain,” said Mecca. “After talking to Dennis, I felt that he would be a great fit for our team because of his work ethic and how he wants to succeed both academically and in track and field.”
Eriksson backs up these claims with being selected to the MAAC All-Academic Team and is usually towards the top when it comes to the results at the track meets. All of this he does while also being a resident assistant at Manhattan. Eriksson will look to continue to lead in his final year here at Manhattan.