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What makes an Ultimate Athlete?

Roundtable: Athletes from various sports weigh in on the term

The Gatorade Boys Runner of the Year Edward Cheserek (St. Benedict's, NJ) competes in the 2 mile at the Millrose Games. / USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Athlete. Not familiar with the term? That’s OK. We asked five elite high school athletes from across the country, representing multiple sports, to dissect the details and help define it.   


Nick Downs, C.M. Russell (Great Falls, Mont.), soccer   
Alexa Middleton, Riverdale (Tenn.) basketball
Cameron Burrell, Ridge Point (Missouri City, Texas) track
Katherine Broussard,Metairie (La.) Park Country Day volleyball
Lucy Biles, Herriman (Utah) cross country and track

Q: What comes to mind when you hear the words Ultimate Athlete?

Nick Downs: Someone who is really committed and takes the social side off to spend those extra hours working. It’s someone who goes above and beyond others’ expectations.

Lucy Biles: Someone who trains really hard and is dedicated — it’s not necessarily someone who is the best, but someone who gives his or her all.

Katherine Broussard: Someone who is good at balancing athletics with school and participates in different sports, and is the best [he or she] can be in each sport.

Cameron Burrell: An Ultimate Athlete is someone who is the best at whatever it is he or she does.

Q: What characteristics make up an Ultimate Athlete?

Downs: Leadership and dedication. People want to follow in that athlete’s footsteps. You can’t just be a leader on the field. You have to be a leader off the field and be an example of what others should follow.

Middleton: Someone who has good athletic and people skills.

Biles: You have to be able to communicate well. If I wasn’t able to communicate with my coach, I wouldn’t be able to improve.  

Burrell: Work ethic, dedication, determination and mental toughness.

Q: What sport produces the best athletes?

Downs: Soccer (laughs). The sport not only develops attributes that athletes should have, it also brings them out in other players. You have to know every position, you have to know where to be at the right time. At the same time, you have to know your job and be able to do it well.

Middleton: Basketball. The hard work that has to be put in every day is mentally and physically tiring.

Broussard: Volleyball — it’s a powerful sport.

Burrell: There are great athletes in all sports.

Q: What sport requires the most intense training?

Downs: I played football, baseball and basketball. Compared to the camps I’ve been to, soccer has the most intense training. It’s all repetition. There’s very little stopping but a lot of going — I think that’s one of the hardest parts.

Broussard: I ran track this year for the first time. The training was more difficult [compared to] volleyball. You have to have good endurance and go as hard as you can for a really long time, whereas volleyball is stop-and-go.

Burrell: Boxing or UFC. That’s pretty rough. Gymnastics — the attention to detail is insane.

Q: What sport requires the most physically fit physique in order to perform well?

Biles: Gymnastics. On our track team, we have a freshman sprinter who has broken the state record in the 200-meter dash. She was a gymnast, and she’s hard as a rock. I don’t think her body could physically improve because she’s already in top condition. It’s insane how fit she is.

Broussard: Soccer or basketball. You have to run a lot, and you have to be physically fit to run. I don’t think you have to be totally fit for volleyball. I’ve seen thicker people play, and they were amazing.

Biles: Track, cross country and football. Every day before school, the football team runs in the halls and then weight trains. During the season, they practice from 4 to 7 p.m. everyday. For track, on Mondays and Wednesdays we run at 5:30 a.m. before school, and I run with the boys.



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