Boulder, CO – Joe Bosshard had not yet reached his teenage years, but he believed he’d discovered a path to national exposure, perhaps even fame and fortune. Born in La Crosse, Wis., Bosshard gravitated toward one of the local pastimes – log rolling – before he was 6 years old and won a world title for his age division.
And as he aged, he kept at it, finishing second among the 12-and-unders at the annual Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wis.
“I thought it would be my fastest way to get on ESPN, because they do the outdoors games. I thought if I got good enough at that, it would be my ticket,” he told me on a recent stormy afternoon while sitting alongside the track in Balch Fieldhouse.
Log rolling, he continued, is “a neat event . . . I think it helped me a lot in athletic endeavors; it’s fast feet the whole time and it teaches you coordination and balance – especially balance.”
But Bosshard didn’t stick around Wisconsin long enough for ESPN’s cameras to catch him balancing and sprinting in place on a floating log. “Joe Boss” had another passion, and his pursuit of it still might earn him that spot on ESPN.
As an unsettled, adventurous high school junior, Bosshard left his home state for Crested Butte, Colo., where he finished his schooling and revved up his running career at Crested Butte Academy under renowned coach Trent Sanderson. Alerted by Sanderson to Bosshard’s potential, veteran Colorado track and field coach Mark Wetmore took notice, eventually landing Bosshard and finally placing him in a setting Bosshard had dreamed about through most of his adolescence.
Two years later, Bosshard’s drive, determination and those ultra-quick feet that were mere blurs on a bobbing log have been a boon for the Buffs. At the recent Big 12 Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Bosshard, a sophomore, set two meet records in three days. On Friday night, he won the 10k in 28:52.85, then encored on Sunday with a 13:50.62 timing in the 5k, becoming the first CU male to win both events at the Big 12 meet.
Wetmore wasn’t caught off guard by Bosshard’s bodacious weekend. “One has to be highly motivated to survive here,” Wetmore said. “The requirements of the coaching staff, the requirements of the historical context and the requirements of teammates are high. But among a group of highly motivated people, he’s a step above that.”
For Bosshard, though, setting a pair of records in CU’s final Big 12 team competition wasn’t his chief motivation. “The most important thing was putting up the points . . . we did and I was really proud of our team for that,” he said. “The second thing was seeing the Colorado uniform on top of the podium, whether it was me or any of my more-than-capable teammates. I guess it was my weekend, but Coach Wetmore and Coach (Heather) Burroughs set me up to perform well and things just clicked.”
Things had clashed and nearly crashed for Bosshard in mid-April at the Mt. Sac Relays, where he “probably had my worst (performance) since I’ve been in college. It just absolutely fell apart and I can’t come up with one single thing why. It was just a bad day – just the opposite of what last weekend was, and it shook my confidence a little.”
That was because the hyper-driven Bosshard had not deviated from his routine. He had logged (no pun intended) his usual miles and avoided the injuries that can come from overtraining or being physically underdeveloped and had plagued him through much of the 2010 indoor season. He had missed by half a second qualifying for the most recent indoor nationals, which further motivated him for the outdoor season.
“I was running hard, grinding the miles out . . . then Mt. Sac happened, and it was like, ‘Where am I now? That’s not what I’m looking for,'” he said.
But over the next several weeks, Bosshard recovered psychologically and elected to compete in a 5k at Stanford’s Cardinal Invitational two weekends before the Big 12 meet. In Palo Alto, Calif., “It really came together and was just what I needed . . . it was like a relief and got the monkey off my back. I left there feeling I was where I was supposed to be,” he said.
In the 5k in Big 12 competition in Norman, Okla., Bosshard’s resolve and composure were challenged in the final 600 meters. After Bosshard took the lead with about 300 meters left, Oklahoma State’s Colby Lowe – a distance runner Bosshard had kept track of since Bosshard was a high school sophomore – made more than incidental contact and knocked Bosshard off stride.
“It slowed me a little and I staggered my steps,” he recalled. “But I regained by composure and went after him. If anything, it kind of lit a fire and got me going. I didn’t want to lose after a bump, but that’s racing and I don’t mind a little contact. I grew up playing basketball, so I’m used to it.”
The bump and Bosshard’s reaction, particularly him having enough in reserve to catch and overtake Lowe, might have been atypical. “I run on a very fine line of running too hard, going over the top,” Bosshard said. “I tend to ride that line as long as I can, and that leaves me with not much left. Some guys tend to hold back and save a little for last 400 meters.
“I don’t think about that; if I have to stay on these guys for as long I can and I have to walk it in, then that’s what happens. It’s always been my strategy and it’s come back to bite me a few times. But I’ve had success by being up in the race and not letting any gaps form.”
Yet when Lowe grabbed him, Bosshard looked deep and found something more in the tank. “I refocused and zeroed in . . . finishing strong was my goal,” he said, adding he didn’t know Lowe had been disqualified until Lowe didn’t show up at the post-race podium.
From his time in Crested Butte, Bosshard grew to love “long, hard runs in the mountains – I think that’s my forte.” No wonder, then, that he and Wetmore believe his best event might be the 10k, although Wetmore concedes to being “careful about the 10,000 meters for college age runners.”
“I think of it as more of a 28-year-old event than a 20-year-olds event. But his talent package does seem to be best suited to that . . . from a physiological perspective, he has a uniquely high capacity to uptake, transport and utilize oxygen.”
Bosshard already has achieved All-American status in the 10k by virtue of his sixth-place finish (28:59.87) at last season’s NCAA Outdoor Championships. He credits Burroughs for making a case for him to run the 10k in last season’s conference meet, which led to him qualifying for NCAA regional competition, then the nationals. His respective finishes in those three meets were sixth, seventh and sixth.
“I’m just thankful they let me do it . . . I would have been pretty bummed if I had been left out of the regionals,” he said.
Next up for Bosshard are the NCAA West prelims on May 26-28 in Eugene, Ore., with the NCAA Outdoor Championships following on June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa. He’ll approach both events just as he will CU’s entry into the Pac-12 Conference – that would be all-out.
“You always want to compete against the best,” he said. “I need to know I’m competing against the best; it’s what drives me. I know there are guys better than me, but I’m slowly but surely closing that gap. It’s taken me awhile to get into those top meets, the top heats, but that’s a good thing. It’s keeping me levelheaded, grounded.
“There’s so many guys who have come in right out of high school at the top . . . it’s hard to stay there and know people are gunning for you. I’ve always been kind of in the shadows, I guess you could say. That’s fine; it’s where I want to be.”
When Bosshard makes his next trip to Wisconsin, he has a goal in mind for the return. That log-rolling trophy he has at home will accompany him to Boulder. “I’m going to have to bring it out here because the guys (on the CU team) don’t believe me,” he said with a laugh.
Over the next couple of years, it’s not likely to be the only award Joe Bosshard’s teammates see in his possession. And in time, ESPN might be watching, too.
Story by Trent Anderson