Think back to when you were nine years old and think back to when you were nine years old in the summer time. For most of us, the most activity we may have received came by spending the day at the pool or playing in little league baseball.
For most of us, the biggest concern on our minds was how we could get our hands on the latest and greatest toy, or what mom was cooking for dinner. Coming off of what many young individuals would describe as a grueling school year, summer time is often the time for sleeping in late and lounging around all day long.
That’s where Waukee phenom in Josh Bergkamp comes in and breaks the mold. Josh may be just nine years old but he is one of few his age who prove, age is just a number. While many of us at that age were planning on sleepovers with friends, Josh has been making waves all across the country in the sport of track and field.
Summer is indeed a time of relaxation and while many of us find such relaxation in the form of vacations and so forth, Bergkamp has found relaxation in claiming the likes of a Iowa state track and field title, a regional triathlon title, and a plethora of individual meet medals. The most recent form of all that success came on perhaps the biggest of stages in the world of track and field with the AAU Junior Olympic Games held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines this past week.
If that wasn’t enough, Bergkamp didn’t just make the games in one or two events, he made his way in a multitude of events including the triathlon which consists of the high jump, shot put, and 400 meter dash events. Bergkamp continued his success of defeating over 30 athletes to claim a regional triathlon title to make the AAU Nationals where he staked claim to the sixth best triathlon mark out of 32 finalists. Many of us found sheer excitement summertime fireworks but for Josh, the most exciting thing he claimed from the summer of 2018 was his triathlon performance.
“It was so exciting just to make it to Nationals.” stated Bergkamp. “I was nervous with all the people around but when I finished and I did so well, I was really happy.”
But as the trend continues, Josh did more than simply finish strong. His sixth place triathlon finish consisted of a fifth place high jump finish, an 11th place finish in the shot put, and a top five spot in the 400 meter dash. Bergkamp’s sixth place finish earned him the title of All-American as the top eight finishers across the entire country in the triathlon event received that title. It’s a title that Josh himself was very proud of.
“I feel really good about that,” began Bergkamp. “It feels so great because my coaches and I put in a lot of work to get here. I’m glad that I could do so well for them, my parents, and myself.”
If your mind hasn’t been blown just yet, this year wasn’t his first year on the national scene but his second. Josh followed up a phenomenal rookie season last year where he set a javelin record of 71 feet at the AAU regional meet in Minnesota. That’s right, a technically demanding event like the javelin was no match for Bergkamp who claimed sixth in the event last year at Nationals.
Now while many of us may look at Josh’s endeavours as time consuming and difficult, Josh has viewed what he does as nothing more than extremely fun and has viewed it that way since the beginning.
“Initially I just introduced him to the sport and all the events just to see if he’d like it,” began father Jamie Bergkamp. “If he didn’t like it we wouldn’t have made him do it but he came back from that first practice and was so excited and kept on asking when the next practice was. Josh is such a driven individual.”
The origins to what will undoubtedly be a phenomenal track and field career for Josh can undoubtedly be traced back to joining up with the Central Iowa Excaliburs Track Club out of Des Moines Iowa. It was there Josh found excitement in the sport and it was there that his drive to win was not only noticed, but flourished.
“From the moment he arrived I knew Josh was a special kid,” said legendary coach Cortez Nichols. “I could tell Josh had a lot of drive in him and he took to the sport very easily.”
Some high praise coming from a coach who has been known across the entire track and field scene after training the like of Olympic champions like Lolo Jones. The praise didn’t stop there however as coach Nichols went on to mention how the energy and drive put forth by Josh has been huge towards his success.
“All of the energy Josh has given has been huge towards his success,” began Nichols. “To be honest, this sport and the what we expect out of our athletes can be demanding and is not for everyone. It’s a long season that begins in April and ends in August. Josh has been very coachable and has taken everything in stride. His passion for the sport has helped him grow both mentally and physically. With this being his second year, he’s really taken to some of our teachings quicker than he did before.”
All that helped Josh become a known name across the country, especially in the Javelin event where he came into the AAU Junior Olympic Games ranked 17th in the country with a mark of 89 feet. Out of the 56 best nine year old javelin throwers on the AAU circuit, Bergkamp took 21st overall with a toss of 60’-09”. Just two days later, Bergkamp participated in the individual high jump event, something he was ranked fifth heading into. He then proceeded to place 7th after a height of 3’-92.5”, tying his personal best.
While very deserving of his success, the humble nine year old well beyond his years was very quick to credit his coaches.
“Without my coaches I wouldn’t be as good as I am today,” began Josh. “They have helped me get better at my techniques and made it fun to come to practice and competitions.”
While winning medals and setting records will always be goals set forth by coach Nichols and his staff, one thing that coach labeled as most important is in fact having fun.
“An athlete can have all the skill in the world but if they are not having fun while participating, they’ll never succeed,” started Nichols. “Here at Excalibur Track Club our first priority is that these kids have fun because when it’s fun, success comes easy. When it’s fun they preform more relaxed and loose which leads to better results. Having fun is what the sport was meant for and that’s our goal to have fun with it all.”
Spending just a few minutes talking with coach Nichols and you’ll notice truly just how much having fun for the kids means to him.
“I’m so blessed to be doing what I’m doing,” said Nichols. “When kids have fun, succeed, and enjoy themselves that’s music to my ears, that’s why I do what I do. If I can positively impact the life of an athlete, that’s the biggest joy in the world for me. It’s all about the kids and as I always say it’s like building a house, take care of the foundation and this world will be better. The same thing for our kids, it’s a joy to watch them grow, succeed, and of course have fun while doing it.”
Just before ending the conversation, Josh had more thanks to give out and it came in the form of his parents.
“I know for sure that without my dad and my mom I wouldn’t be as good as I am now, I wouldn’t have set the records that I have,” said Josh.
Those words echoed even further from the mouth of coach Nichols.
“When these kids sign up to be a part of this club or any track club for that matter, their parents do as well,” began Nichols. “Without their dedication I can assure you that these kids wouldn’t be able to enjoy the successes that they do. These parents help with so much from driving the kids to events and even helping them stay up with proper eating habits and getting proper sleep. All of that is just as important as training four to five times a week.”
While athletics may be exciting for the city of Waukee now, even more excitement lies in waiting for what the already talented Josh Bergkamp is capable of obtaining. From an inspirational tale to a story of dedication and determination, Josh Bergkamp is truly an example of how age is just a number, and anything is possible if you put in the work.