Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Students turn college into juggling act


The first week of college has just begun and students have started to move into their dorm rooms. They’ve exchanged goodbyes with their parents and have welcomed this new chapter of life in an unknown place. Meeting their roommate for the first time, the realness of the situation starts to set in. Anxiety, fear and a twinge of excitement flood the brain.


They begin to settle in and take a moment to reflect on the events of the past 24 hours. Suddenly that reflection is broken, concentration being pulled back to reality by the sound of laughter and astonishment right outside the window. Peering outside, a scene expected anywhere but Spearfish S.D. unfolds, a man riding around campus on a unicycle while juggling three pins. Suddenly, all fears are replaced by amusement, and the activity happening right outside the  window completely captivates the brain.


It is no secret that Black Hills State University is home to students who have a variety of different skills. It may be a surprise, however, that several students possess the ability to do backflips, juggle, unicycle and spin basketballs.


Andrew Toft, a freshman history major, can juggle, unicycle and spin basketballs.


“I learned these skills my sophomore year of high school. I decided to learn these skills because I wanted to have a hobby, something that I was really good at, that wasn’t common,” Toft said. “It was a chance to improve my self-confidence, as well as my coordination and reflexes. A bonus is that it is easy to show off anytime, anywhere. After the first week, when I could consistently juggle three balls, I really became hooked on the whole style of the hobby. I couldn’t learn fast enough. I learned all of the three ball tricks I could, then moved on to four balls, then to basketball spinning and basketball spinning tricks, then unicycling, finally putting it all together.”


Erik Merkle, a freshman Human Services major, can unicycle and do various forms of parkour, including flips on the ground and off objects, handstands and climbing.


“I learned parkour and flips when I was about 14, and I learned how to unicycle in the summer of 2018,” Merkle said. “I learned to unicycle because I saw a person riding one down the bike path and, at that moment, I knew that it was something that I wanted to learn because it is unique and can make people smile. I learned parkour and flips because I have always had an interest in those types of activities and I always wanted to be able to do a standing backflip. I devoted some of my time to teach myself and now I can do them.”


Lucas Clegg, a senior exercise science major, can unicycle.


“I learned to unicycle when I was 14,” Clegg said. “[Since then], I have competed on my unicycle at the national and world level. I’ve been to four European countries, Canada, and multiple states to attend competitions. I’m the two time North American Unicycle Trials Champion.”


Although these athletes make it look effortless, learning these skills and developing new, more difficult ones takes time and dedication.


“My most difficult trick is spinning nine basketballs at the same time. It’s hard work, but definitely worth it,” Toft said.


“My most difficult trick is one that I am currently working on, which is a wall flip,” Merkle said. “That is when I run up to a wall and plant my foot up on the wall, proceeding to do a backflip off the wall. It’s a pretty ‘off the wall’ trick if you ask me.”


Clegg said, “My most difficult trick is a 540 unispin.”


While hard work and dedication may consume a majority of these athletes’ training periods, they still make sure to learn fun tricks.


“My favorite trick would have to be ‘snowman spinning,’ which is where you spin one basketball on top of another basketball for a lengthy amount of time. It looks crazy and is really fun to perform. A runner up would be juggling five balls,” Toft said.


“My favorite trick on a trampoline is a double backflip and my favorite trick on the ground is a round-off 360,” Merkle said. “With the round-off, I get so much air, which makes me feel like I am flying for about 1.2 seconds.”


Clegg said, “My favorite trick is a 360 side unispin.”


Riding a unicycle or juggling flaming pins may seem impossible. However, the worst way to learn these skills is refusing to try.


“I have never regretted the time and energy I’ve put into my tricks. I have learned so much in the last two years and I’ve been able to connect with tons of people who share the same interests,” Toft said. “I love to teach everything I can to anyone who will listen. There is always something new to be learned in these sports. You can never learn it all, and that’s why it’s so fun.”


“A quote from Audrey Hepburn says, ‘Nothing is impossible,’ the word itself says ‘I’m possible,’ So based off of that, I would just like to encourage anyone and everyone to try something new,” Merkle said. “Even if you don’t think you can do it, try, because the truth is, you can. A little change doesn’t hurt, so go out and learn something you never thought you would.”