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Brian Rathjen/NT Sports Editor

Craig Alan Becker (seated, second from right) signed his national letter of intent to continue his athletic career at the University of Northern Iowa. With him are, front row from left, his brother Colton, father John and mother (and track coach) Abby, at right. Back row: Dan Vargason, head cross country coach; and Jeremy Blake, assistant boys’ track coach.

ATLANTIC – The size and setting and opportunities he’d have were the things that led Craig Alan Becker to the University of Northern Iowa.

Becker, the Atlantic senior who has stood out in four sports throughout his high school career, most notably cross country and track, officially signed his letter of intent to continue his career as a Panther Wednesday morning.

“At the same time, it’s not very big to the point where I’m just a number, in the classroom or on the track,” he said. “It has a very cool atmosphere.”

Becker also looked at Central College, Dordt University and Indiana Wesleyan before settling on UNI.

Becker, the son of John and Abby Becker, said he expects he’ll see most of his time in the 800-meter races, including individual and relays.

“Right now, the ability to have that distance side, what Varg (coach Dan Vargason) helped me out in cross country and the speed I’m able to develop as well,” he said. “Both are going to be very important aspects to the training, especially in college. It’s still somewhat a distance but it’s a sprint as well.”

Becker began high school playing football but eventually switched over to cross country. He went on to place seventh at the state cross country meet last fall, becoming the school’s best finish in the sport in school history.

Becker placed seventh at the Iowa Class 3A state cross country meet this past fall, the highest place of any male athlete in that sport in school history. He also was a triple-medalist at the 2019 state track meet, with fourth- (4x800), sixth- (800) and seventh-place (1600) showings; and was part of the state championship 4x800-meter relay team his freshman year in 2018.

“I think it was cool to step outside my comfort zone,” said Becker. “The three miles was not really something that I was used to, as Varg could attest; I was a little gassed running. But having that aerobic training that distance training is going to be valuable.”

Coaches, teammates and family, as well as his faith, all helped shape him into who he is today, said Becker.

“Just learning a lot of lessons and I’m looking forward to that culture to help continue where I am at now,” he said.

His mother, who is also his track coach this spring, said she’s impressed with how his teammates and coaches helped shape him and make him a better athlete.

“He’s learned a lot about who to run and what he can accomplish and how far he can push the limits,” said Abby Becker. “His freshman and sophomore year he had awesome teammates who every single practice pushed each other. That helped him be a better athlete ... and teammate as well. Now he’s helping the younger athletes.”

Vargason noted how Becker asked questions about the sport of running, and noted that a changed style of running helped him become the most successful boys’ cross country athlete in school history.

“He’s been uncomfortable in races before and he knows how to deal with adversity and how to adjust,” said Vargason.

Becker said he plans to major in movement and exercise science.

“I love fitness and just I’ll be able to coach other kids or go a little bit on the physiology side ... and apply my knowledge and research projects into helping kids in the future,” he said.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to sports@ant-news.com or phone (712) 243-2624.

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