In Love With The Sport

Sophomore Matt Bye is set to compete in his first-ever NCAA National Meet after qualifying in the decathlon.
Sophomore Matt Bye is set to compete in his first-ever NCAA National Meet after qualifying in the decathlon.

MOORHEAD—A new love for the sport has helped Cobber sophomore Matt Bye earn a trip to this year's NCAA National Championship Outdoor Meet in Wis.- La Crosse.

Bye, who participated in hurdles and the high jump as well as football and basketball at Moorhead High School - and during his first year at Concordia - started competing in multi-event competitions this season.  

Bye gives equal credit to his transition into a multi-event athlete between head coach Garrick Larson and former Cobber decathletes Jackson Schepp and Joe Hendrickson and current teammate Brett Brenden. The Concordia multi-event consortium began recruiting him for the decathlon during last season.

"I fought it off last year but this year I conformed," said Bye. "I started to seriously think about making the switch to multi-events over the summer and then made the decision just before the indoor season."

His first indoor season competing in the heptathlon didn't go so well for Bye. He finished 10th at the conference heptathlon but had trouble tackling some of the unfamiliar events.

"I barely made 9-feet in the pole vault in my first event and the longer running event (1000 meters) was tough because I didn't want to come in last in front of a lot of people."

There was good news for Bye in his first-ever conference heptathlon. He finished second-from-last in the 1000 meters and cleared 10-feet in pole vault.

The breakthrough as a multi-event athlete came when the season changed and he was able to move to the decathlon – that and when he figured out what end to hold the pole vault pole.

"I held the pole backwards for the entire indoor season," Bye said. "I figured out that the bend should be at the other end and then switched my grip to the other end. Once I started using the right end of the pole I started to go up in height at every meet."

Bye started the outdoor season with few expectations and a leg injury which he picked up before the first meet of the outdoor season on Mar. 12.               

The weather started to get warm and so did Bye's progression in all 10 events in the decathlon. His first chance at a full-fledge decathlon came at Concordia in the Snownami Meet on Mar. 21-22.

"Garrick (head coach Garrick Larson) told me to relax and just try and post a score in each event," Bye said.

Not only did Bye post a score in all 10 events but he went on to win that first decathlon. He also cleared 12-feet in the pole vault and had several other personal bests in the other events.

Bye still didn't believe a trip to the national meet was possible until the MIAC Championship Meet.
 
Bye found his rhythm on Day 2 of the conference decathlon and went on to finish second among the 12 competitors. He had three personal best marks on the second day and his total of 6,173 points was the most by a Cobber in their first-ever MIAC decathlon.

"After the MIAC Meet I started to think about the point totals I could improve on and thought I might have a chance at nationals," Bye said. "I then looked at where the other athletes from around the country were and figured I could give it one more chance at the North Central Meet."

His last-chance meet gamble paid off as he put up a total of 6,300 points at North Central which vaulted him into the Top 20 in the country - the cut line for entrance into the Division III National Meet.

Bye is excited about his future in the sport. He believes he can improve in all 10 events and thinks he can reach the 7000-point mark by his senior season. That total would break the school record of 6,747 points set by Adam Strainer in 2000.

As for his first trip to the national meet, his goals are closer to the 6,300 total he posted at North Central.

"I think I can improve on my marks in the pole vault and high jump and can get to 6,400 points," Bye said

Regardless of what Bye does this weekend at the NCAA Meet, he is excited about his future in the sport.

"The decathlon has helped me fall back in love with track," Bye said. "The camaraderie of all the competitors helps everyone get better and that is a great feeling during all the events.

More from Bye
- Favorite event: Javelin – "there is something so primal about throwing something as far as you can.
- Hardest event: Pole Vault – "It's unlike any other event and takes time to master."
- Best event: Hurdles – "It's what I did in high school and last year at Concordia and my highest scoring event." (Bye finished second in the 110-meter hurdles at the MIAC Outdoor Meet)
- On the difference between the decathlon and football – "The decathlon is like a 2-day long game. It's like playing a team on Saturday and then having to out and play them again on Sunday."