By Rob Kiser
Piqua native Mike Butsch has excelled at track and field since the first time he stepped on the track for Piqua Central, before going on to a Hall of Fame career at McPherson College.
And he has never lost his love for the sport —whether it was watching his sons and now grandsons compete — or competing himself as he continues to this day at the highest level.
Butsch recently competed in his first USATF Masters national championship in Chicago and did not disappoint — earning second place in the throws pentathlon competition for the 65-69 age group.
For those who don’t know, the USATF run all national track competitions.
“We even had to do go through drug testing,” Butsch said with a laugh.
And while Butsch, at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, is outsized by his opponents, he once again more than held his own.
The winner, Tim Muller, stands 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds and he finished with 4,147 points for the five-event competition.
Butsch was next at 3,747, followed by TimCederblad at 3,678 points.
“I knew it would be almost impossible to win, going up against the big guy (Tim Muller),” Butsch said. “Actually, I knew I was going to be in a real dogfight for second. The number one, two, three, seven and eight ranked throwers in the world (65-69) were there. That score is my best score ever.”
Butsch started with a throw of 116-9 in the hammer.
He followed that with distances of 39-11 (shot put), 128-7 (discus), 110-11 (javelin) and 44-9 (weight throw).
“I got off to a great start,” he said. “I was pretty much second all the way. My weight throw was a personal best.”
Athletics has always been a big part of Butsch’s life.
At McPherson, he was a national placer at the NAIA meet and four-time qualifier, while setting a school record of 15-3 that still stands in the pole vault.
His sons Steve and Bryan were also successful vaulters under his tutelage at Piqua, with Steve becoming Piqua’s first state champion with a then record vault of 15-7.
Butsch was also a successful golf coach at Tippecanoe, winning three league titles and a district title.
He is also a former Piqua City Senior champion in golf, while also playing softball at a high level.
But, it is his passion for track that never left him.
“I just love it,” Butsch said. “Since I can’t pole vault anymore, the throws allow me to keep competing.”
A year ago, at the Senior Olympics, Butsch was national champion in the hammer, third in the discus, fourth in the shot put and eighth in the javelin.
Butsch said sometimes that passion works against him.
“I love it too much,” he said. “I end up hurting myself from throwing too much.”
That probably worked for him in his most recent competition.
“I was dealing with an injury,” he said. “I wasn’t able to train like I normally do. That worked to my advantage because I was fresh for the competition.”
And Butsch downplays his size disadvantage.
“I am by far the smallest guy at the competitions,” he said. “But, a lot of those big guys are dealing with knee injuries and things like that and don’t move as well as they used to.”
Consistency, as always, was a key for Butsch.
He was second in three of the five throws and third in the other two.
“Some of those guys are really good in one event or two, but not in others,” Butsch said. “I am able to make up for the size difference with better technique. So, a pentathlon allows me to be very competitive.”
And Butsch relishes every opportunity to compete.
“A lot of the guys are the same guys,’ Butsch said. “It is great to be around them. We are rivals, but we are also a fraternity.”
Butsch is currently ranked second in the U.S. in his age group.
“Currently, I am ranked third in the world, but that will change as some of the Europeans report their throws,,” he said. “Last year, I ended up in the top 15. Hopefully, with this performance, I will end up a little higher.”
As he continues to excel at the sport he has had a lifetime passion for.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.