Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Detmer born to run … and throw

When it comes time to make the move from high school to college, there are so many decisions to be made. What school should you go to? What should you major in? What sport could you do well in if you are able to compete at the next level? For Joe Detmer, a fifth-year senior on the UW track team, he had a couple of options.

"I actually thought about playing soccer here," Detmer said. "During the summer before my freshman year, there was a coaching change and that kind of led me to not try out." Detmer was a three-sport athlete at Lodi High School, just a little more than 20 miles north of Madison. During his senior year of track, he finished second at the state meet in the 400 meters and 10th in the long jump. So why not run track here instead?

"Towards the end of my first semester I decided to talk to the coaches about coming out for the track team," he said.


Coach Ed Nuttycombe remembers that conversation very well.

"Joe came in towards the end of the first semester and said he was interested in coming out for the team," Nuttycombe said. "We had talked to him in high school a bit and knew he had an interest. We saw him running with some guys and knew he could run."

So Detmer earned his way on the team and made an immediate impact. He took second place in a very demanding 600 meters at the Big Ten indoor, as well as being a member of second-place 4×4 relay. Both finishes helped Detmer be named second-team All-Big Ten.

Detmer could run. Everyone who knew him knew he could run. But Detmer wanted more.

"I really wanted to try out multi-events," Detmer said. "I was really interested in the heptathlon and decathlon. So I asked the coaches if they would let me try it out. Then I asked again."

Detmer's persistency led to him getting his chance. During an intrasquad competition held around first semester finals his sophomore year, the coaches let him try out the heptathlon.

"I had been sick all week," Detmer said. "I really didn't want to get out of bed, but I knew this was my chance to do more."

While his performance was nothing spectacular, he said, Detmer still performed well enough to make the coaches think about it.

"We told him he shouldn't because he was too good of a runner," Nuttycombe said. "But Joe being Joe, he wanted to do more. He put in extra hours after he was done with his 600 workouts to work with the decathletes. So we gave him a shot, and again Joe surprised us at how quickly he picked up on it."

Detmer won the 600 meters at the indoor that year, but it was his performance in the outdoor decathlon that was most impressive. In his first year competing in the event, he qualified for the NCAA. Although he finished 14th, he won the 400 meters and the 1000 meters of the decathlon.

"He's just a natural runner," said Ann Detmer, Joe's younger sister and teammate here for the Badgers. "But he wants to better his throws. He's such a good runner that when he's training for the decathlon, he seems very anti-running. That's the easy part of it for him."

"Throwing shot and the javelin and doing hurdles are a lot more technical for me," Detmer said. "Running is just running, but to be good at the heptathlon and the decathlon I really need to better my technique of throwing and jumping."

While running one or two events are enough to keep some busy, it is not enough for Detmer.

"I like to keep busy," Detmer said. "I might not have a lot of free time, but that's OK. It's never really fazed me."

Good thing he's not getting fazed, as the Big Ten indoor championships are a little more than two weeks away.

In a tuneup two weeks ago, Detmer competed in the heptathlon at the Wisconsin Elite Championship here in Madison. Though Detmer finished third, there were two bright sides to his performance. First, the 5,651 points he earned was good enough to automatically qualify him for the NCAA Indoor Championship March 9-10. Second, Detmer broke the American record for the 1,000 meters with a time of 2:30.86 and missed breaking the World record by .61 seconds.

"It's cool to know that I've got that record," Detmer said. "But at the same time I can't dwell on it. I didn't win the event so there are some things I have to work on to better myself for the Big Ten and NCAA."

It's a sentiment his coach appreciates.

"That's the thing about Joe," Nuttycombe said. "We as coaches know that he's probably the favorite to win at the Big Ten. But he's always working hard to better himself in some way. He's always asking us what he can do to help the team.

"Joe is one of those guys that you love to coach. He's admired by and looked up to by his peers. Other coaches around the Big Ten have commented on what a great young man and a great young competitor he is. People admire him for what he's done so far for this team and how he does it. He is a class act."

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