By Steve Williams
The value of friendships appears to mean as much, if not more, to Nathan Rivera as snapping over a high hurdle on the track or splitting a pair of defensive backs to haul in a touchdown pass.
Rivera was named Karns High School’s Male Athlete of the Year for his accomplishments in track and field, the decathlon and football, and the sports highlight of his senior year, he said, “was making it to the state with three of my close friends.”
Rivera and senior teammates Cody Graves, Hunter Goforth and Kyle Savery spent almost a week together in Murfreesboro at the TSSAA’s Spring Fling.
Cody and Hunter joined Nathan in the state competition, while Kyle was “our cheerleader and biggest fan,” said Rivera.
The Beavers’ foursome traveled to the state with Coach Derek Witt.
Rivera ended up finishing sixth in the state decathlon for the second year in a row and placing seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles. He also earned All-District 3-AAA honors in football for the second time last fall.
Nathan’s going to get to pick right up where he left off in college, too, as he will be signing a track and field scholarship today with East Tennessee State University. With ETSU planning to restart its football program, Rivera also plans to walk on as a wide receiver for the Buccaneers in 2015.
“I’m glad I get to be an athlete and go to college at the same time,” said Rivera, who plans to major in chemistry and become a chemical engineer. He had a 3.5 GPA and 23 ACT.
Rivera also received offers from the University of the Cumberlands and Carson-Newman.
“With the people I know going there and my relationship with the coaches, I think ETSU will be a good fit for me,” added Rivera.
The news that he had been selected Karns’ Male Athlete of the Year surprised and honored Rivera.
“That’s pretty awesome,” he said. “It’s a great thing to happen with all the hard work I’ve put in. It’s pretty sweet and good to know I’m getting some recognition for it.”
Rivera started competing in the decathlon three years ago and became Karns’ first-ever regional decathlete champion as a junior.
The 6-3, 190-pounder, who has 4.5 speed in the 40, became a veteran wide receiver in football and also contributed as a free safety and defensive back his senior season.
“We had a bunch of injuries in football, and the season didn’t turn out like we had hoped going in,” said Riversa of the 1-9 campaign. “But we were tight knit, all in it together and we played for each other.”
Rivera’s best high school football memory comes from a Karns win at Clinton his junior year.
“I was running on a slant and split their safety and cornerback,” recalled Nathan. “They hit each other and fell. I went 70 yards to score.”
A disappointment in his prep career was “not playing basketball” more.
“I played my freshman year,” he said. “Track and football kind of took over.
“Playing around, basketball is my favorite. In a game situation though, I’d pick football.”
Rivera moved from Madisonville to Charleston, S.C., at an early age and attended “five schools in four years” before starting in the seventh grade at Karns Middle School. He started playing football again as a freshman.
Rivera said he will compete in the decathlon and as a hurdler at ETSU. The differences at the collegiate level are that the decathlon includes the javelin throw instead of the triple jump and the high hurdles are three inches taller.
Of the 10 decathlon events, the hurdles is Rivera’s best event, followed by the high jump, shot put, long jump, 400-meter dash, pole vault, triple jump, 100 dash, discus and 1,500 run.