Alleman’s Nathan Graves remembers trying a lot of different events when he signed up for a YMCA track program in seventh grade.
It was his first taste of several of them and except for running a painful 800, he enjoyed it.
Graves, who took third in the Class A Illinois state meet in the discus and seventh in the triple jump last spring while also qualifying in the long jump, signed a national letter of intent with the University of Montana Wednesday for track and field.
The plan is to make him a decathlete, he said. But he expects to compete in his other specialties at the many meets that don’t have decathlons. Last Saturday, he took third in the high jump at the United Township Kiwanis Invite, clearing 5-feet, 10 inches.
The 6-5 Graves was among 12 student-athletes at Alleman signing in the Don Morris Gym on Wednesday, including tennis player Mary Grevas, who will attend the University of Iowa to compete in rowing, and golfer Dylan Cervantes, who will attend Western Illinois.
Graves said he considered Colorado and Colorado State but his decision came down to Wyoming and Montana.
“Once I got to Montana, it really felt like home,” he said. “The players and the teammates took me in and the coaches were All-Americans back in the day, and I think I will have a really great coaching staff to prepare me in the future.”
Graves said he visited several schools on the same weekend, but Montana, located in Missoula, some 21 hours away from the Quad-Cities, came on strong.
“I reached out to them and they saw that I had both a throwing event and a jumping event and I had some times in for 200s,” said Graves, who like many track athletes will receive a partial scholarship. “They saw this kid has to be somewhat athletic, so they recruited me for decathlon.”
Graves also played wide receiver, punted and kicked off in football and was a starter and double-figure scorer for the Pioneers in basketball. He made All-Western Big Six first team as a punter and honorable mention Big Six in basketball.
His basketball career is over, he acknowledged with some disappointment, saying he would miss the sport. But the decathlon clearly intrigues him.
“I am just trying to train for different things,” he said. “I’ve run a 400, done multiple jumps in the past couple days. I’ve got a relay (Thursday). I am training for the mile so I can get a time in for them.”
He plans to major in environmental sciences, and admits to thinking a little about Olympic possibilities as a decathlete.
“The Olympic Trials are in three or four years,” he said. “If I get to that point, that would blow my mind. But that would be awesome.”