Ulysses Patterson brings a little bit of everything to the Clinton boys track team.
The junior athlete joins a group of himself, two relay teams and David Johnson this week in Des Moines for the Class 4A Iowa High School State Track and Field Meet. It is his second year in a row on the Blue Oval.
Patterson was the one certain qualifier the River Kings had last Friday walking away from the district meet. He finished as the runner-up in the 400-meter dash after running a 51.30 in the event. Other than that, the team had to wait to see if they made the cut.
That race was one of the closest of the night, with the top three finishers all separated by less than half a second. Patterson knew that the River Kings were looking to be top competitors.
“It was either Dave or I,” Patterson said. “It was a good race.”
He also qualified in the long jump, leaping 20-11 to land a spot. Long jump is what Patterson has been doing the longest, getting a love of the event from his own father. He feels the most confident heading into that event, relaying that his best chance at placing would come from the sand.
He’s athletic in every way, not just jumping. He also plays football and basketball for the River Kings.
“He’s a specimen,” head track coach Kellen Schneeberger said. “He’s built for speed. You can just tell ... when he wants to run he can cover ground, and in a hurry.”
That’s why track has become one of his favorite sports. It’s somewhere he can push himself to his own physical and mental limits and improve every time out.
“The individual success is more than enough to keep pulling me back,” Patterson said. “When you see all the work you’ve put in come out to a new personal best or qualifying for state, it makes it all worth it.”
It makes him one of the leaders physically, but also one when it comes to experience. Out of the state qualifiers this year for Clinton, Patterson is the only one with state experience after running his sophomore year.
He missed a good chunk of this year’s track season, but has worked his way back into things at the right time. He’s also seen the dynamic of the team turn a bit throughout the spring.
“When this year started, I wanted to be a leader,” Patterson said. “I wasn’t here for the majority of the season so they kind of started looking to Dave [Johnson], which ... why wouldn’t you? He’s a strong guy. I feel like we all ended up looking to each other for support.”
Patterson certainly has an interesting role when it comes to his part on the team. Although he gets hyper focused before his events and stays in the zone, he has a generally loose and positive demeanor.
“He’s got a really bubbly personality,” Coach Schneeberger said. “He’s super well liked by students and staff and has just a great positive attitude. Sometimes that can bubble over a little bit but he does a good job of keeping it focused in track.”
That shows up in his work with the drama department, which doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with athletics. Patterson credits the staff and CHS for helping make both a possibility. He performs in the schools’ productions with several other athletes, well known for his theatrical talents.
That makes him nothing less of an entertaining joy when he’s off the stage as well.
“He helps everyone, he keeps them loose,” Schneeberger said. “He balances some of the seniors a little bit because they can be hyper-focused. He brings a calm and fun demeanor.”
It’s not something Patterson necessarily notices, it’s just an inherent part of who he is.
“When you have someone who keeps you in a good mood, the time goes by faster,” Patterson said. “When you have really important races, instead of throwing up in anticipation, just be excited to run.”
Patterson runs the 400-meter dash preliminaries on Thursday night at 7:20 p.m. He then takes to the long jump pit Friday afternoon, jumping at 2 p.m. He rounds things out with the 4x400 on Friday night at 7: 20 p.m.