Updated: Sep 20
Belmont track and field star Drake Mitchell isn’t interested in doing the bare minimum.
The fifth-year senior is one of the highest scorers for the Bruins, competing in both running and field events as well as multi-events like heptathlon and decathlon. A talented athlete and fierce competitor, Mitchell is a role model for many on his team.
“He’s a beast,” said Mitchell’s teammate Corey Claiborne. “I’ve never seen him get discouraged, even in the midst of real hardship.”
As it turns out, Mitchell has hardship to thank for the start of his track career. The sport wasn’t his first choice — he joined his middle school team after getting cut from the baseball team on what he calls a “pretty rough day.”
“I was forgetting a lot of things. Forgot my hat, couldn’t see very well,” remembered Mitchell. “It was like everything that could have gone wrong that day went wrong.”
At the time, Mitchell was a football player and wrestler, but he wanted to play a spring sport, he said. So, with the relentless spirit that would make him a star among coaches and teammates, he joined track. He continued throughout middle and high school as a three-sport athlete.
In his freshman year of high school, Mitchell competed in his first decathlon — an event over two days combining scores from the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter run.
He remembered feeling “terrified,” he said, and his nerves showed in his performance. Mitchell’s first decathlon didn’t go as he’d hoped, but it motivated him to improve.
“Even though I did pretty bad, I was still competitive,” Mitchell said. “I knew I could be better than I was those two days.”
In the summer following his freshman year of high school, Mitchell went to every lift for the upcoming football season — even the optional ones. He remembers that as the summer coaches really started to notice him.
“It was the flip of the switch I think I needed,” he said.
Mitchell’s scores continued to improve, and he started looking to compete in college. A then-Franklin resident, Mitchell looked to Belmont first. It was the only college he officially visited.
Other schools reached out to him, he said, but after touring Belmont, he felt he didn’t need to go anywhere else. It was close to home and he could start running right away — at other schools he might not make the roster until sophomore year or later.
“I could be doing things, like actually making an impact, immediately,” said Mitchell. “It was the school that was the best option. It was my top choice for college anyways.”
And Mitchell started “doing things” immediately. He quickly established a presence on the team, becoming one of the Bruins’ highest scorers and hardest workers.
Teammate Katrina Quigley, who also happens to be one of Mitchell’s closest friends, said Mitchell serves as a “beacon of strength” for her and the team.
“When I’m at practice in the middle of a workout, and I’m dying and I don’t want to be there, I look to him for strength,” said Quigley.
“I can see him across the field, and I’m like, ‘Okay, he’s strong and he’s powerful and he’s getting through this.’ I can do this.”
Mitchell’s drive inspires Quigley and the rest of the team to follow in his footsteps, she said.
Claiborne agreed, adding that Mitchell is a great teammate because he doesn’t need to be pushed to achieve greatness — he pushes himself. No matter the circumstances, said Claiborne, Mitchell is there to compete.
Whether he’s at meets, in practice or playing pickup basketball or video games with friends, Quigley said Mitchell is always “ridiculously competitive.”
“He loves competition. When he talks to the guys on the team, I always roll my eyes. They’re always trying to one-up each other,” said Quigley. “He never turns it off.”
But Mitchell stays humble. He realizes he’s almost enigmatic, said Quigley. He knows the team looks up to him and goes out of his way to be a good teammate.
“He’s never for a second let me not believe in myself,” said Quigley. “I’ve learned to trust myself more by being friends with him.”
And it appears Mitchell will continue to lead and support others. He said he plans to pursue fitness and personal training as well as start coaching after graduating from Belmont.
“Being able to develop that bond with a coach and having them help you get to the best version of what you can be is something I’ve always had an appreciation for,” said Mitchell. “That’s always something I’ve wanted to do.”
Both Quigley and Claiborne see Mitchell finding success as a coach in the future. As a hard worker, a natural leader and a fierce competitor, Mitchell is the perfect person to be inspired by.
“Kids can look to him and be inspired by his example,” Claiborne said. “He looks like a superhero. And he’s as athletic as one, too.”
This article was written by Vivi Smilgius. Photo courtesy of Belmont University Athletics/Sam Simpkins.