Thanks "Zeke": in praise of the Dean of the Decathlon, Frank Zarnowski, by Elliot Denman

Dr. Frank Zarnowski, aka "Zeke", the dean of the decathlon, photo courtesy of  USATF.TV

If one had been to a decathlon competition in the past forty years, then, one had heard the thoughtful, lucid voice of Zeke, aka Dr. Frank Zarnowski. The guy knows so much about the decathlon, and his preparation for announcing multi events sets the standard, quite frankly, for how athletics should be covered. 

In 2012, his announcements on Ashton Eaton's WR Decathlon was one of the highlights of my 42 years of watching or running in track meets. 

Elliott Denman, working in that hot, humid, virtual Turkish bath that was the Media tent in Eugene this past, week, told me about his idea of a piece on Zeke. I loved it. 


EUGENE, OREGON  - Thanks, "Zeke.".
Thanks for reminding us that:
+++ This is the 100th Anniversary Decathlon at the USA Outdoor Championships.
+++ That 2015 champion Trey Hardee is within 65 points of his 2009 PR.
+++ That silver medalist Jeremy Taiwo has added 25 points to his lifetime best.
+++ That bronze medalist Zach "Double Z" Ziemek has not only joined the
elite 8000-point club (with 107 points to spare) but is now the 73rd American in
track and field history to total over eight-grand.
+++ And if those factoids are insufficient to whet your appetite for the decathlon, always
a numbers game, "Zeke" will always have a few more choice numbers stored away in his
voluminous memory bank.
Decathlon fans - and you'd be surprised how many there are - were again
stretched in 10 different directions at the nation's biggest meet. 
One more time, though, it took the accumulated wisdom of Dr. Frank "Zeke" Zarnowski -
universally recognized as the world's leading multi-events expert - to tie
all those athletes, and all those events, and all those numbers, and all
those stats in assorted categories - into a single fathomable product.
Where would all those fans at Hayward Field have been without
"Zeke" - or "Dr. Z," that part is optional - spouting all those digits and
making sense of them all ?
Hayward fans, face it, you'd have been stuck somewhere on the west bank of the
Willamette River without a paddle to get across to this venerable stadium.
Dr. Frank Zarnowski, of course, has been doing this for years and years.  In
real life, he's a noted academician as a retired professor of economics at
Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
But to track fans the world over he is the beloved gentleman who makes such
sense of the multi-events that are the sport-within-the-sport of
track and field.
As such, he's more than "Zeke" or "Dr. Z."
He is also the "legendary guru" who is the "dean of the dec."
Armed with all this deca-knowledge, he is routinely invited to the
major "multis" of the world, handed a microphone, and told
to make senses of all this to the folks in the seats.
No one does it better - or has even tried to do it better.
And no one appreciates his mike-work more than the decathletes themselves.
Heading into the concluding 1500 meters of the 2015 "dec," Zarnowski
reminded fans exactly what times Hardee, Taiwo, Ziemek and all the others
just how fast (or slow) they'd have to run to reach their target scores.
The decathletes responded by busting a few more guts for the 10th and final
time in this event, staged in difficult conditions over two steamy days.
And the fans responded with the applause that
surely told these multi-talented men that they truly rank as
"the world's greatest athletes."
If all the numbers align - and there's no reason they should not - Team USA
will be represented by four men in the decathlon at the IAAF World
Championships in Beijing in August.
Word record-holder - at 9039 points - and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton
gets in automatically as the 2013 World Championships winner. (He only long jumped
at 2015 Nationals, going a relaxed 25-8 ¾.)
Going to China as America's 1-2-3 out of Nationals are Hardee, Taiwo and Ziemek.
Texan Hardee closed fast to win the second-day high hurdles, discus and javelin, then
labored through a 4:45.77 1500 meters for an 8725 score, number two dec-mark on his
 all-time list, trailing only the 8790 he registered winning the 2009 Worlds
In Berlin.
Taiwo, a U. of Washington man, raised his PR from 8239 in
2013 up to 8264 in 2015.
And "Double Z" Ziemek, a recent Wisconsin grad, moved up to 8107
for his new 8000-point club membership card.
The 100th Anniversary Edition of the USA National "dec" is appropriately
delineated in another "Dr. Z" masterpiece, the 12-page special program
he's authored as one more labor of deca-love.
The first National "dec," he reminds readers, was staged as an adjunct to the Pan-Pacific Exposition
of 1915 in San Francisco.
A man named Alma Richards, who had ties to at least four schools - Brigham Young,
Cornell, Stanford and Southern California - totaled 6858.8.81 points to win it according to the
scoring tables of the day.
Runnerup was  a fellow named Avery Brundage of Chicago who, of course, would
 go on to write his own chapters in Olympic history.  Of a different kind.
Well, a century has flown and the deca-history books are full of the lively tales of
these decathletes, their numbers and their exploits.
Just ask "Zeke" about any of these things or any of these books.  After all, he
wrote most of them, too.. 

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