116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Northern Iowa freshman Drew Bartels made an illuminating discovery two hours before Thursday’s sunrise.
“I was expecting to be sore after the five events (Wednesday),” the former Cedar Rapids Kennedy standout and first-time Drake Relays decathlete said. “I woke up and was like, ‘I’m ready to go. My legs felt good. I felt good. I was locked in.”
Bartels — who won state titles in the long jump and the 110-meter hurdles last May — finished sixth in his decathlon debut Thursday at a windswept Drake Stadium.
That’s an impressive initial effort, but how would he describe his first experience in the grueling two-day event?
“Fun,” said Bartels, who set a personal best in the javelin portion of the event. “I liked it a lot. It’s really mentally challenging.”
Jakob Tordsen of Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) won the decathlon. Northern Iowa’s Carter Morton and Zack Butcher finished fourth and fifth, respectively, giving the Panthers half of the top six finishers. Butcher, a former standout at Western Dubuque, won the decathlon last season at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships.
“I like to think of myself as kind of a utility man,” Butcher said. “Sometimes they like to use me in the (4x400) open events. I throw well enough in javelin I can throw in open — and long jump as well if I have a good day. So I plan to keep on doing the decathlon as well as other things.”
A lot of other things. The versatile sophomore didn’t initially expect to be tabbed for the event when he joined the Panthers’ program — until he lined up to receive his gear on the first day of practice.
“I was expecting sprints and some long jumps and whatever,” Butcher said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, I got a lot of boxes. This is cool. This is Division I, like this is what you get?’ The first box I opened was shot put shoes. I was like, ‘I am not a shot put (guy), these have got to be someone else’s.’ They looked at the list and said, ‘They have you down as decathlon,’ (and I thought), ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool.’ Ever since that day I embraced the challenge of it and I keep building my confidence up with it.”
Now he’s a defending Missouri Valley Conference outdoor champion who agrees with his rookie teammate that the grind of the decathlon is “fun.”
Or maybe because of it.
“It’s the camaraderie for sure,” Butcher said. “Doing all these different events, especially learning them, is really cool and fun. But the camaraderie out here is awesome. We laugh with each other. We hype each other up. We pick each other up when we’re down. So the camaraderie is awesome. I’ve built some friendships with these guys that will last a while.”
Also of note
Mike Jasa of Loras finished second in the unseeded men’s 800-meter run. Jasa, a senior, helped Cedar Rapids Prairie win the 3,200-meter relay and the shuttle hurdle relay flags at the 2018 Drake Relays.