Team Player: Japheth Cato
“I love being on a winning team. By being willing to work through challenges and persevere, I’ve had great success with my teammates.”
Up until April 27, Japheth Cato x’14 was the Badger track and field team’s lucky seven. In the heptathlon, he competed in seven events, and he was among the best college athletes in his field. But at the end of April, he ruptured his Achilles tendon at a meet in California, prematurely ending his season.
The heptathlon combines the 60-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60-meter hurdles, pole vault, and the 1,000-meter dash to rack up points during meets.
“I’ve always done multi-event sports,” Cato says. “I’m pretty versatile.”
Though he was redshirted his first year, he has always been eager to travel and compete with the team — so much so that during his freshman year, he walked onto the team’s bus, looked his coach in the eye, and said, “Next year, I’ll be on this bus.”
Now not only is Cato aboard the bus, but he also leads the team as one of three captains. Instrumental in the Badgers’ appearances at the NCAA Indoor Track Championships for three years, he encourages everyone to be the best athlete possible. In 2012, Cato showed that he holds himself to the same standard, becoming the seventh athlete in NCAA history to break the 6,000-point plateau in the heptathlon.
“I always push myself to do better,” Cato says, but he also keeps in mind that the competition is just like him. “They put their pants on one leg at a time,” he says.
In the 2013 NCAA Championships, Cato finished runner-up for the second consecutive year, scoring a career-best of 6,165 points. Though he was hoping for more, he’s proud of breaking his own record for highest non-winning score. He is the first collegian to top 6,000 points in the heptathlon four times in a career.
“I love being on a winning team,” he says. “By being willing to work through challenges and persevere, I’ve had great success with my teammates.”
His next challenge will be a big one. Cato faces six to nine months of rehab as he recovers from his injury. But he still has hopes for future competition, perhaps even at the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I’ll always be hungry,” he says. “Being on this team has made me always want to work hard for more.”
Published in the Summer 2013 issue