WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Colt Feltes took a look around the infield and something inside him clicked.
A freshman thrower for Wartburg, Feltes had made it to the NCAA Division III national championship meet. The talent was there, but it was raw and he was … to put it the way he put it … very soft.
That wouldn’t do, not when going up against a group like this. Was he intimidated? Maybe. Who knows? The fact was, he knew that a change was necessary and that he was determined to make it. As he scanned the group of competitors who were obviously committed to their craft, a thought crossed his mind.
Feltes had always been able to get by on talent alone. In high school, his baseball coach essentially pushed Feltes to participate on the track and field team in order to have something to do. His first year of college, the fairly lackadaisical mentality was still there.
He wasn’t exactly tubby, but it was not the kind of shape he needed to be in to compete at an elite level. Just getting by was no longer enough. The message finally got through at that national meet.
“Just like any freshman, you’ve got to find yourself,” Feltes says. “You’ve got to decide who you’re going to become. You have your ups and downs, and everyone has their downs their freshman year. That’s how you build your character.
“It’s how you build your personality. Coming into my sophomore year, I made a transformation physically, mentally and spiritually to just become an all-around outstanding student-athlete. I’ve been focused from there.”
The change was not overnight. These kinds of things never are. He trains hard and eats maybe six or seven meals a day. Since his journey began, Feltes has gone from what he calls a “very soft” 205 pounds to where he currently weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 275. That’s not seventy extra pounds of blubber, either.
He doesn’t appear to have the body of a weightlifter, as many throwers do. He’s tall and just -- what’s the best way to put this -- a big guy.
“I try to distinguish myself from the other throwers and not necessarily look like a thrower,” Feltes says. “I try to stay lean all year round. That’s due to the diet changes and the training.”
Some who have undergone that significant a change would see the work that’s gone into it as a grueling chore -- a necessary evil, if you will.
“The work is never really hard when you enjoy it,” Feltes continues. “I’ve always embraced the journey. You’re going to make mistakes. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’re going to fail.
“If you embrace those things and know that they’re coming, you can better set yourself up so that the work doesn’t seem like it’s a gauntlet. The work for me was never that hard. I fell in love with it at the beginning.”
Since rededicating himself to his sport, the results have come fast and furious. He’s won the past three Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships in both the weight throw and shot put and last year won the DIII national championship in the shot.
He’s had a host of honors along the way, but those are recognitions he realizes don’t necessarily last very long. The journey itself is what matters.
“For me, it’s almost as if when I get an award or get to the next level, I’m never really satisfied,” he continues. “I kind of grab the award, move on and keep going. That’s what I love, is the journey.
“That’s where you’re going to meet all your friends and people that influence your life. The spotlight is only for a few seconds. The journey is the rest of the time, so you’ve got to fall in love with that.”
A senior now, Feltes enjoys the role of mentor to his younger Wartburg teammates. His biggest message?
It’s fine to have fun as a college student, but only to a point.
“Basically my role this year has been to do what I do on the track and in the classroom, but also to tell these freshmen, ‘You might feel left out because of the decisions you make. You don’t necessarily go out. You have friends who want to do something, but you have homework to do. You have to worry about yourself in those situations and make sure the work that needs to get done gets done.’ ”