Senior Drew Thompson was raised by athletes.
He said he developed a passion for track and field at a very young age, and his athletic lineage only fueled his desire to compete.
“I have been doing track since I was in the third grade,” Thompson said. “My dad did collegiate track at Central Washington and my mom did track in high school, so you know it was just kind of always there. Then in high school, I kind of just did a bunch of different events — high jump, hurdles, pole vault — and then I got to college I was like, ‘Oh I’ll just walk on to the Idaho team and do the decathlon.’ And I did.”
A decision some would struggle through he said he made effortlessly.
“I came here to be a mechanical engineer actually and I just walked on,” he said. “I just looked at what’s a good place I can get a good education and then once I picked out a couple schools, I sent out an interest letter and Idaho was the only one to respond so I was like, ‘Well I guess I’m going to Idaho.’”
But his start at Idaho wasn’t without its challenges. Thompson said it took him some time to adjust to the challenges and expectations of being a collegiate athlete, especially as a freshman.
“You go from being a single event athlete to someone who does multiple events, some of your times aren’t always what you’d expect coming in, you’d expect to do a lot better,” he said.
Although it took him some time, Thompson said he hit his stride and kept building from there.
“Towards the end of my freshman year, my times started dropping and I started hitting those marks I really wanted,” Thompson said. “As you get into it, you get into the groove of being a collegiate athlete and every year you get more and more anxious to get out there and get back at it.”
He said he redshirted his junior year and was amped to get back into competing his last year.
While his strength can be seen on stat sheets, his impact spans beyond numbers. Thompson said he has tried to take on a leadership role for the team.
“It’s a big honor. I take a lot of pride in it,” Thompson said. “I take it seriously and I try to be a leader for the kids out here and show them how to get to that next level and keep their head straight so they can continue. Being a leader, I try to make sure they keep on the straight and narrow and keep focused so they can reach the potential they have — that’s really it.”
Idaho Director of Track and Field Tim Cawley said Thompson has been a good role model for the underclassmen.
“He is a good mentor to a lot of the younger athletes,” Cawley said. “He does a good job off the track there.”
While many athletes compete and advance for themselves, Thompson said he has a different approach.
“I have a lot of friends back home and people who have passed away — who weren’t blessed with the ability that I was so like I never just compete for myself,” Thompson said. “I compete for the other people who don’t have the same opportunity. And that’s really what pushes me more than anything else, knowing, ‘Hey I have a gift and I don’t want to waste it’. Just thinking about the people back home and the people I have lost, it just really helps a lot and keeps me focused on what I want to accomplish.”
Thompson said he considers his competition to come not only from his teammates but from his father as well.
“(My dad) gave me something to shoot for so I was like, ‘Oh my dad ran this in college so I am going to try to beat that’ or, ‘My dad, he is like a 6’11 high jumper, I’m going to try to beat 6’11 high jump.’ He is honestly my biggest hero. He is like Superman to me.”
As Thompson’s track career ends at Idaho he said he is not sold on completely letting it go.
“I am kind of waiting to see how the season goes and see what opportunities open up for me. I’m not really closed off to anything at this moment,” he said. “I have a trainer back home, he kind of wants me to get into some aesthetic lifting he said, or maybe training for the NFL combine. Like I said, I’m really open to anything. I’ve put in a lot of work over the summer so this could open up a lot of doors for me.”
Thompson isn’t the only one excited to see what the future has in store for him. Cawley said he sees a lot of talent in Thompson and looks forward to seeing where he goes next.
“I am excited,” Cawley said. “He is a pretty talented engineer. He is pretty talented in whatever he puts his mind to. I am sure wherever he ends up he will climb the ladder pretty quickly.”
Despite the ticking clock, Thompson said he will always hold onto the memories.
“One of the biggest memories that sticks out to me though is winning conference here three years ago,” he said. “We won by one point and (Arphaxad Carroll) came in with a big jump that pushed us into first place to give us the conference win. That was really cool to just be there and experience.”
He said he moves on from a successful five years at Idaho but knows he will always have a family here and they will always have his back, regardless of where he goes.
“Any one of these people on the team I would do anything for, hands down,” Thompson said. “You’re my teammate, this is like our family.”
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org