Rogers High senior hurdler Nick Bullo put himself up to it a year ago.
One year after Eric Simpson graduated, Bullo claimed he was going to be the man to replace the Rams’ star runner, who’s now at the University of Washington. It was a natural progression for Bullo; Simpson was his role model.
You can’t really replace someone like Eric, but you hope you can be that next guy to step up in his place.
“Because Eric was such a great leader, I wanted to continue what he had going here in with the team,” Bullo said. “When Eric worked, everyone just followed his lead. You can’t really replace someone like Eric, but you hope you can be that next guy to step up in his place.”
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After the West Central District III meet at French Field over the weekend, Bullo became the first Rogers track athlete to compete in the 400-meter (fifth, 50.10 seconds) and the 300 hurdles (fifth, 39.88).
“It was (an) okay race,” Bullo said of his fifth-place finish in the 300 hurdles. “I mean, I slipped about the first corner. That slowed me up, but all I care about is qualifying.”
Rogers coach Dan Carlson called it a “championship mindset” that Simpson had, one that never settled and always looked for ways to improve.
And just as often as Simpson went through his workouts, teammates gravitated toward him, trying to emulate what made him so great.
I thought it was awesome he wanted to step into some big shoes to fill. He felt confident he could step into the hurdles last year (but) this year he took that next step even higher by taking on the leadership role.
Rogers coach Dan Carlson
Bullo was one of those athletes always around.
“Just talking to him and asking his advice helped me (shake) my nerves,” Bullo said. “I told (Carlson) I wanted to replace (Simpson) last year ... be that guy in the hurdles.”
Bullo has been that guy as he’s ranked third (39.12 seconds) in the program’s record books in the 300 hurdles and fifth (15.34) in the 110 high hurdles.
Simpson owns both Rogers school records: 14.03 seconds in the 110 hurdles and a 37.78 in the 300 hurdles.
“I thought it was awesome he wanted to step into some big shoes to fill,” Carlson said. “He felt confident he could step into the hurdles last year (but) this year he took that next step even higher by taking on the leadership role.”
Known as a quiet leader, there’s a sight Carlson was hoping he’d see this season, one that was missing for two years. There was Bullo going to work — either on his handoffs in the relays or setting up hurdles for a quick run-through.
And right behind him was a line of Rams following his lead.
“He’s someone you want to ask questions, figure out what he’s doing right and how I can do the same thing,” sophomore hurdler Taylor Murchison said. “I feel like I learned a lot just working with him this year.”
A little over a year ago, Bullo wanted to be the replacement for Simpson in the hurdles, taking on the challenge that comes with replacing such a talented track star.
As Carlson watches Bullo go through his hurdles, only one thought comes to the coach’s mind.
“He doesn’t speak up as much, but the guys who care about improving know where to look,” Carlson said. “That’s the thing Eric had — leading by example. Nick has that same hold on the team. There’s no difference between the two.”