Michael Bolligar is a quick learner.
In his first year at WSU, the junior-transfer from Arizona has become one of the top multi-event athletes and has learned what it means to be a Cougar.
You can find the six-foot junior all around the track during a meet. That’s because he competes as a multi-event athlete, including the decathlon and heptathlon.
Athletes like Bolligar compete in a series of ten combined events spanned over two days. These include the high and long jumps, the hurdles, 100, 400 and 1500-meter dashes, shot put and the javelin throw.
Bolligar said he has embraced the challenges both physically and mentally.
“Grinding through practice, everyday you’re going to be tired,” he said. “But you got to put in the work.”
Bolligar has done just that in his first year as a Cougar.
Though he said he wasn’t satisfied with his early season results, he has steadily gained momentum during the course of the season. In the Cougar’s last meet, Bolligar won both the high jump and long jump, and ran a personal record time in the 60-meter hurdles.
Courtesy of WSU Athletic Media
“The season started out kind of rough and not what I was expecting, but last meet was very promising,” Bolligar said. “It seems everything is coming together.”
Bolligar credits Head Coach Rick Sloan for his success thus far.
“He’s definitely brought an insight in to the decathlon that I didn’t have before,” Bolligar said. “When I came here, I didn’t know really how to specifically train for it, but he’s obviously been doing it for a long time. He knows what he’s doing.”
Bolligar said Sloan was the primary reason he chose to compete for WSU, noting the rarity of finding such an experienced coach in the multi-event competition.
“That’s few and far in NCAA’s, it’s not a primary focus of a lot of programs,” Bolligar said. “Obviously Coach Sloan’s history speaks for itself. “
Sloan said he sees plenty of potential in the young man. Although Bolligar’s experience is limited, he brings a great deal of talent to the Cougars.
“I think he is ready to perform,” Sloan said. “I have noticed that when he puts the uniform on, things happen at a higher level than they do in practice.”
Bolligar admits it has been a difficult adjustment, but he has his goals set high regardless. Bolligar said he hopes to win the decathlon at the upcoming Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track and Field Championships in Seattle, and hopes to set himself up to compete in nationals at season’s end.
Adjusting to the multi-events isn’t the only challenge the Arizona-native has faced in his first year. The frosty chill of the Palouse has also been an adjustment.
“It’s not as bad as I was expecting, but it’s pretty cold compared to Arizona,” he said. “It hasn’t scared me off yet.”
Bolligar puts up with the weather through the warmth of teammates, friends and the family environment he feels at WSU.
“I like the atmosphere. I like how everyone is proud to be a Cougar. You’ll be walking through the mall, and people will yell out, ‘Go Cougs,’” Bolligar said. “Universities back home don’t necessarily have that. It’s like a family here.”
While Bolligar has found comfort as a Cougar, he also gains reassurance in life and athletics through his faith. As a former member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a part-time member of WSU’s Young Life Organization, Bollinger said faith is what helps him through rough times.
“I’m not kind of the rah-rah religious guy,” Bolligar said. “But trusting yourself and trusting your teammates and knowing that god will help you through things is nice.”
For now, Bolligar will rely on his coach, his teammates and his faith to grind through upcoming meets and reach his goals of competing at nationals. Bolligar said he is looking forward to the upcoming meet in Seattle. “I’m pretty confident I’ll do well, definitely going for the win."