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Trey Hardee, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

Taiwo's 4447 Points Leads 10-Event Warriors After Day One

 

Eugene, Oregon

Mutual respect is regularly shared among track and field athletes. But in few events - perhaps no events - is the sense of fraternity more pervasive than in the decathlon, that multi-event war where the 10-event gladiators conclude Day Two with a group victory lap. But there is a time when even the decathlon brotherhood puts that shared respect on hold: that roughly 36-hour period when they do battle in the event itself. Day One of the decathlon at these 2015 USATF outdoor track and field championships was no exception.

The first event - the 100 meters - provided no surprises as Trey Hardee looked strong in winning the dash in 10.48, just slightly off the winning deca 100m mark of 10.38 he posted in this meet last year. The 2011 world decathlon champion earned 980 points for a 21 point lead over University of Wisconsin athlete Zach Ziemek [10.57/959] with former Duke multi-event star Curtis Beach [10.72/924] in third.

In the long jump - Event 2 of Day One - Beach harvested 987 big points in one of his stronger deca events when he spanned 7.71m [25'3½"]. But the two-time NCAA indoor heptathlon champion could not gain ground on Ziemek when the Badger athlete jumped the same distance to grab the overall lead. Hardee recorded a best leap of 7.61m [24'11¾"] but slipped to second after two events. Heading to the shot put, the score stood: Ziemek 1946; Hardee 1942; Beach 1911.

In the third event, the best performance was turned in by Jeremy Taiwo as the former Washington Huskie hurled the ball 14.93m [48'11¾] to win Event 3 to move into third with 2615 points. Double Z - bettering his previous PR by over 2 feet - threw 14.77m [48'5½] to maintain the overall lead with a score of 2722. Beach - never strong in the throws - was cautious with his recently surgically-repaired right elbow, throwing only 12.50m [41'2¼] and ceding the third position to Hardee who put the shot 14.55m [47'9"] to push his point total to 2704.

Next up was the high jump - one of Taiwo's better events. The 2013 NCAA decathlon runner-up did not squander this point opportunity. Winning the event with a clearance of 2.12m [6'11½], the unattached athlete captured 915 points to move into second overall with 3530 points. Ziemek's 2.06m [6'9"] best height was enough preserve his lead at 3581 while Hardee - in a three way high jump tie for 4th - earned 776 points to push his third place total to 3480.

With the 400 meter dash closing Day One, Beach - sitting in 4th place after 4 events - knew that this event could allow him to close the gap on the trio ahead of him. He responded by clocking the fastest circuit of the day: 47.03. Taiwo - with the second best time of 47.83 - finished Day One with the overall lead at 4447, 78 points ahead of Hardee whose 48.41 400m time gave him a one day total of 4369. The gritty Ziemek posted a 400m time of 51.31 to finish the day with 4336 points - good enough for 3rd. Non-official web-accessible scoring originally accorded Beach with a one-day total of 4284 to position him a close 4th going into Day Two.

Post-event conversations with the multi competitors were limited with leader Taiwo and the focused Ziemek skirting the mixed zone to escape for rest and rehydration so essential after a day-long competition in the uncharacteristic blazing 90+ degree heat. In the mixed zone, Beach - sporting a broad smile and a wide-brimmed sombrero - was upbeat and positive about his Day Two prospects to move up and grab a ticket to China. "I don't know what my score is, but it was solid all the way through," reported the Albuquerque native. Advised that his first day stood at 4284, he offers, "It's nothing crazy. It's about a hundred points down from my first day best. I'm happy with how things are going so far. And all I can expect are solid performances all the way through."

Beach took time to comment on his right elbow ailments that have plagued him since 2012. "It [his right elbow] flared up in 2012, but the root cause was when I broke my elbow in 6th grade," Beach explains. "The surgeon has to place the remaining ligament to remaining piece of bone which he wasn't sure anybody in the world could do. But he was like, 'Alright, let's just give it a try.' I really didn't have a choice. There was nothing to lose. So far it is coming along." Surgery was in June in 2014. "It [the healing progress] is still progressing. It's probably going to be an 18 month process to be fully recovered. But I'm good enough to throw a javelin."

The Duke star deftly sidestepped speculation about how he might perform on Day Two. "I don't make any projections. I just try to focus on the cues I'm working on, execute, and then let the results take care of themselves." When asked if he might be able to claw his way up into the top to gain a berth on the world championship team, he smiled and replied, "I'm going for it."

However, the former Duke athlete's Day One joy would be short-lived. Protracted deliberation by the officials ultimately resulted in a late announcement that Beach would be disqualified in the 400m for a lane violation - costing Beach 957 points and dropping him to 14th place. The infraction would accomplish what none of Beach's competitors could achieve in Day One: effectively knocking him out of contention.

Elsewhere in the media tent, Trey Hardee - light-hearted and almost giddy - was holding court. Noting that the decathlon has two distinct days of competition - not unlike the two nine hole segments of a round of golf - Hardee playfully described his Day One performance. "I'm like one over par," he smiled. "The 100 was a par. The long jump just felt good. I wouldn't call it a birdie, that was a par. The shot put was maybe a bogey - maybe even a double bogey, I don't know. And the other two, I just made it through. I'm healthy. This is the first time in competition this season. I really wished I had jumped better. You really need that adrenalin. You need to be in competition to really cue in and kind of unlock that second gear, that timing."

Only 78 points behind Taiwo heading into Day Two, the former world champion in the decathlon seemed to relish the thought of making a run for the win in Day Two. What is the defending decathlon champion looking for on the "back side" - Day Two of the competition? "I'm healthy. And I'm strong. And I feel good," he reveals. "Hurdles should be good. Discus has been going well. Pole vault has been going well. Everything has been going well." What about the bane of existence for all decathletes - the 1500m? "I pray to God I don't have to PR in the 1500 to get top three. But that's what the first four events [in Day Two] are for."

Before heading off to rest and rehydrate, Hardee took a moment to reflect on the emergence of new stars - young and talented - who were exhibiting strong performances in the 10 event war. "I am really impressed with the other guys - really impressed with Jeremy and Zach and how well they're doing. They're young. And Curtis is doing really, really well - he has a good score going," enthusiastically offered Hardee, unaware of Beach's 400m DQ. "It's something that we have missed, me and Ashton [Eaton], since Bryan [Clay] stopped. There's been a gap." Is this the emergence of the next generation of great American decathletes? "I hope so. Because I only have a couple of years left. I know Ashton's got a few years left. I don't know if he'll be around for 2020. We need the U.S. to stay dominant. This is our event. It's nice to see these guys starting to show that promise."

Hardee's welcoming comments about his fellow competitors - both the young and the more experienced - were simply further evidence of the special shared relationships that exist and are valued among the multi athletes. While that bond is enduring, those genuine feelings of respect and admiration will once again be put on hold temporarily when the decathletes resume battle in Day Two.

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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