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One of a kind: Ellsworth's hard-working Cole Boltjes is gifted, both athletically and academically

Adrian/Ellsworth track and field coaches are constantly impressed with senior Cole Boltjes

Adrian/Ellsworth track and field sprinter and thrower Cole Boltjes works upper muscle groups with chin-ups.
Adrian/Ellsworth track and field sprinter and thrower Cole Boltjes works upper muscle groups with chin-ups.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

ADRIAN -- Cole Boltjes lives right across the street from the school in Ellsworth, Minn., and the track facility is just beyond the alley behind the family home. By the time he became a teen-ager, he would sometimes run on the track like his older brothers did.

Today Cole, a senior, is an unusually gifted athlete competing this spring for the Adrian/Ellsworth track and field program. His brothers, twins Sean and Cade, graduated in 2019 after outstanding high school careers.

The younger brother has his older siblings’ good genes. And he followed in their footsteps.

“My parents just always told them to, ‘hey, just include your little brother,’ ” Cole remembers. “They included me in all sorts of games. Even though there was a three-year age gap, I just went all in. I’d try one hundred percent at everything.

Adrian / Ellsworth Track and Field sprinter and thrower Cole Boltjes from Ellsworth adds some  weights to the bench press during an indoor practice Monday in Adrian.
Cole Boltjes adds some weights to the bench press during an indoor practice.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

“I could occasionally win some things, but I’m not sure if they just occasionally let me win or not. … They probably won’t say.”

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These days, coaches on the A/E track team marvel not just at Cole’s excellence in a variety of events, but also at his intelligence and drive. Assistant coach Jordan Pater calls him “one of the most unique, well-rounded athletes I have ever seen.” His head coach, Ethan Van Briesen, seems to feel the same way.

“He’s something else. He’s quite the impressive person,” Van Briesen described Boltjes. “Any opportunity he can to pursue activities outside the track, he takes advantage of. I think all of (the Boltjes brothers) just have these very big ambitions. Cole is just one of the brightest individuals you’ll ever find.”

On the track, the 6-foot, 200-pounder competes in the 100, 200 and 400-meter sprints (though he’s currently recovering from a hamstring injury), plus the shot put and the discus. He has also run in relays and in hurdles. He did the long jump in junior high school. Van Briesen said he’d probably do well in the pole vault, too, but Adrian/Ellsworth doesn’t have the facilities for that.

Boltjes is unusual in the fact that he competes at a high level in both the sprints and in the weight events. He owns five of Adrian’s top ten performances in the 100, 200, 400, shot put and discus. He’s second in the 100, fifth in the 200, fourth in the 400, fourth in the shot and sixth in the discus according to records kept over the past 60 years.

Says Pater: “It’s absolutely insane that he can be that great in that many events.”

The thoughtful and articulate Boltjes is described by both his coaches as as humble as he is brilliant.

After graduation, Cole plans to attend Iowa State University for the study of chemical engineering. Brothers Sean and Cade attend Purdue and have similarly high personal goals.

Cole describes his relationship with his brothers as fairly typical. He fought with them sometimes, as brothers often do, he said, “until I got big enough to laugh at them when they hit me.” Their father, Jeff, was also a fine track and field athlete, who along with his teammates held the school 4x100-meter relay record until his sons broke it.

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In his sophomore year, Cole chose not to go out for basketball so he could focus on his track and field events. He qualified for state as an eighth-grader in 2018 and as a freshman in 2019, but missed state in 2020 because it was a Covid year. In 2021 he also missed state, finishing third in the section in the shot put, discus and 400 meters.

By bypassing basketball, he said, “I figured I could get more specialized in what I was doing. Because in basketball you do a lot of things specifically only for basketball. I decided I would dedicate that time to working on my starts and my throwing form.”

His sophomore season was a big year for him, and he actually burned out from all the weight training. His workload was certainly heavy.

He’s also a cross country runner, having passed up football for distance running in his freshman year. He ran a half-marathon, too, plotting his own course on a Google map along an area near home, using gravel roads mostly. Despite cramping in his calf muscles, he liked it so much that he did it again. Someday, he wants to do a full-marathon.

Van Briesen believes it’s a shame that Minnesota high school track and field doesn’t offer decathlons.

“I’ve told Cole this many times,” said the coach. “If there was some way to have a decathlon in a high school setting, there’s no doubt in my mind -- he’s one of the most gifted athletes that you’ll find anywhere in the state.”

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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