Garber going for the (cardinal and) gold

BCLUW senior signs with ISU track and field

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - BCLUW senior Jack Garber, seated middle, signed his National Letter of Intent to join the Iowa State University track and field program in the auditorium at BCLUW on Thursday morning. Joining Garber at the signing table are his mother Kristen, left, and father Matt, right, while behind are current Comet head boys track coach Anthony Jahr, left, and former BCLUW track coach Les Penick, right.

CONRAD — Growing up in rural Marshall County, not even an hour from the Iowa State University campus, BCLUW senior Jack Garber idolized the Cyclones and dreamt of what it would be like to compete with the ISU logo emblazoned across his chest.

Early on Thursday morning those dreams became a reality when Garber signed his National Letter of Intent to join the Iowa State track and field team next season.

After signing his papers and posing for photos, Garber said he still wasn’t sure if this was all in his head.

“It was always my top choice, it’s hard to say that I even thought about this as an option because it was so far out there,” he said. “I never thought it would be possible, but it’s definitely a dream come true.”

Garber made his ultimate goals come to fruition by turning himself into one of the best hurdlers in the state. Last season he finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays in his first time running against the best in the state, regardless of class, and he took a bronze medal in Class 1A last year at the state meet.

Former BCLUW head boys track coach Les Penick, who coached Garber in his first three years of high school track, said from the very first practices Garber attended he knew there could be something special.

“He was a very little, skinny freshman, but he was fast, the fastest high hurdler I had ever had as a freshman,” Penick said. “And I’ve coached state champs and several place-winners, so it was easy to see if he continues to grow and mature physically, he’s got a chance to be the fastest we’ve ever had, and that’s been the case.”

Garber holds the Comet record in the 110 high hurdles, breaking a tie with his brother, Will, at the top of the leaderboard in the first meet this season. His current school-best is now 14.65 seconds, and though he’s surpassed his brother, Jack said Will’s influence was absolutely part of what made him want to succeed.

“He was obviously good from a very young age and I saw that,” Jack said. “I got hurdles sent home with me when I was young and I always saw his success and everything he got out of it and was just like, ‘I have to do better than that! If he can do that I can de better,’ you know, one-up your older brother and everything like that. I caught on to it, I put in a lot of work in to it and it’s gotten me here.”

Current BCLUW head boys track coach Anthony Jahr gives much of the credit for Jack’s development to Penick, but he admits as Jack’s football coach for the last four years as well he feels pride in helping put together someone who is now an NCAA Division I athlete.

Jahr said what separates Jack from even some of the other top hurdlers in the state is his attention to detail.

“His steps he goes through during practice is like no one else we have and unlike a kid I’ve ever seen,” Jahr said. “He does the same thing every day, the things he needs to do he works on meticulously. Secondly, he blocks out everything else. In the hurdles it’s your hurdle, your lane. It’s almost like a field event, you can’t control what anyone else does, you can only control you and that’s something else he does so well.”

While many high school athletes don’t necessarily want to go through the rigors of such a difficult event, Garber said the work the hurdles requires is something that drew him to it.

“It’s a challenge that not a lot of people are willing to do. There are litteral hurdles stopping you from getting to the end,” he said. “You’ve got to be a good sprinter to begin with and then you’ve got to perfect your technique. There’s just a lot of things that go into the race, I enjoy chasing that and perfecting everything about it.”

Penick said that want to perfect something that takes an incredible amount of time and effort to perfect shows that Garber is deserving of every accolade he receives.

“First of all you’ve got to have a desire to never give up. You’re going to take those falls, you’re going to have those bad meets where you’re going to flub hurdles and come back bleeding,” Penick said. “You’ve got to have the desire to say, ‘hey, I’m going to do better next time,’ and then obviously you’ve got to be fast. I mean at that level, you’ve got to be sprinter fast, and you’ve got to have goals that you know can be attainable, but they’ve got to be high enough to make it.”

Garber’s work on and off the track don’t just affect his success, Jahr said it sends ripples throughout the BCLUW athletic world.

“It gets kids excited to hurdle, it gets kids excited to be on our shuttle hurdle team. Kids want to be on it, they are fighting hard at practice for it knowing, ‘hey, this is somebody who together we can do some great things,'” Jahr said. “How he handles practice and warmups and meets, you see him cheering on guys and girls during the races and it gets kids pumped up knowing, ‘Jack Garber is cheering me on,’ and he’s so invested in not just himself but our whole team. He is such a team player when it comes to things and he’s just unbelievable.”

With this signing now out of the way and his future secured, Garber said he actually feels looser and can just focus on getting better.

“It’s a huge load off my chest because all the schools coming into this year were like, ‘we want to see you put out these times,’ and now that I’ve been able to get that off my chest I am able to focus on winning my races,” he said. “Hopefully I still get faster, I don’t just put out these times and I’m done.”

In order to make sure he keeps improving, Garber has set himself from lofty goals for the remainder of the season, starting with the upcoming Drake Relays this week.

“I want a state championship, obviously, I want that and I’m going for the meet record of a 14.4,” he said. “I am hoping to go down to Drake next week and I’d like to win it, but it’s Drake you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and hope for the best.”

Coming from humble beginnings, Garber has achieved his ultimate goal of becoming a Cyclone, and he couldn’t be prouder.

“It means a lot to me, being a Cyclone growing up and always following their athletics,” he said. “To finally be able to be a part of it, it means a lot to me personally and I think it’s pretty cool.”