Kodiak High School’s first 1,000-yard rusher is ready to punish linebackers at the next level.
Speedster Micah Bartel, a 2019 graduate of KHS, is headed to Concordia University Wisconsin to play football this fall. He reports to the NCAA Division III team for the first day of practice on Aug. 16.
“This is a good way to figure out if football is really something that I want to do,” said Bartel last week while walking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage. “I might as well try to get some playing time instead of sitting on the bench. I can get my schooling and sports at the same time.”
Bartel, a multi-sport star in high school, wasn’t sure he wanted to pursue college football when his senior season started. He then produced one of the greatest seasons in KHS football history, which made the decision easier.
“My first year of being a running back really got me excited to go see if I could keep doing it,” Bartel said. “I already liked football a lot; this added more to it.”
Bartel spent his first three high school seasons — the first two in California — on the offensive line. He was the man opening up holes for the running backs. His role changed when Bryan Ellsworth was hired as the Bears coach for the 2019 campaign.
“I remember coach Ellsworth coming up to me before the season, talking to me and introducing himself,” Bartel said. “He told me about this new offense and that he wanted me to be the running back.”
Bartel thought the coach was crazy, but it turned out Ellsworth was a genius.
With his lightning-quick speed, Bartel — a two-time state qualifier sprinter — was the centerpiece of Ellworth’s single-wing offense and rushed into Kodiak’s record books. He set a KHS single-season school record with 1,115 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns — 14 rushing. Bartel is the only player to eclipse 1,000 yards in the program’s 17-year history.
“At the beginning of the year, I remember a lot of my family members said I should push for the 1,000-yard record,” Bartel said. “I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. It was something that I was striving for, and having accomplished it; I was very happy to have completed my goal.”
Bartel is cut from a different breed. He goes on midnight runs and busts out crunches when nobody is watching. He thrives for competition.
“I’ve always enjoyed every sport that I have played, as long as I’m having fun,” Bartel said. “But it is usually more fun when you win, so that is an incentive to train harder in your off time.”
Bartel, who also plays basketball and baseball, and runs track, didn’t take to the gridiron until he was a freshman at tiny California Lutheran High School in Wildomar, which played nine-man football instead of 11. His dad, Jon, wanted him to join.
“He taught me a lot about football when I was younger,” Bartel said. “He told me how he played in high school. The fun stories that he told me are something that stuck with me and made me want to do it.”
Coaches placed him on the line, and he excelled over the years, earning All-Northern Lights Conference honors as a junior. He said his time spent in the trenches helped in the transition to the backfield.
“Sure the plays were different, but I knew how linemen thought and how linemen worked,” he said. “It made it a lot easier to see how our guys were going to be moving on the field.”
Bartel is joining a Concordia team that had great success running the ball last season. The Falcons rushed for 1,485 yards and finished with a 7-3 record in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. With leading rusher Josh Turner returning for his sophomore campaign, Bartel is just hoping to get an opportunity.
He picked Concordia over three other schools and is looking forward to playing in front of relatives — his dad’s side of the family lives in Wisconsin — and spending time on campus, which is a stone’s throw away from Lake Michigan. He received academic and athletic scholarships and will be majoring in exercise physiology.
But most of all, Bartel is eager to strap on the pads again.
“I like the intensity of it (football). You have a whole group of your closest friends playing something you love. It is an adrenaline rush when you out on the field — it makes you feel like a different person,” he said. “I just hope it goes well. I’m very excited for it, and I’m going to keep working as hard as I have been for it.”