High Plains Multi Showdown
Day-Monroe’s AR 4805 Points Captures 5th Multi Crown; Horn Poised For First Multi Title
Albuquerque, New Mexico
February 21, 2014
The 2014 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships began with a day devoted exclusively to the multi-events: the pentathlon and the heptathlon. Some of the competition luster was diminished when the two marquee performers – Sharon Day-Monroe and Ashton Eaton – were earlier extended automatic invitations to compete in the World Indoor Championship in their respective multi events, thereby rendering unnecessary any type of qualifying performance here in the Land Of Enchantment. These two athletes will be the sole U.S. multi participants competing in the World Championships.
Day-Monroe decided to compete anyway, citing the need to work on a few things and her coach’s encouragement that participating in the national championship would likely sharpen – not dull – her performance two weeks from now in Sopot, Poland. A relaxed Day-Monroe – unshackled from the pressure of qualifying – performed very well, to say the least. The two-time defending national pentathlon champion started with gusto – ringing up 1030 points with a second place clocking of 8.44 in the opening 60 meter hurdles.
The pentathlon’s second event featured a high jump square off between Day-Monroe and Barbara Nwaba. The competition proved to be, well, enchanting. With rest of the field gone above 1.76m [5’9Â¼”], the pair dueled onward and upward with Day-Monroe’s clearance at 1.88m [6’2″] bettering Nwaba’s top bar at 1.85m [6’Â¾”]. The two time Olympian’s high jump win was worth 1080 points giving her a two event total of 2110 – and extending her lead over Nwaba to 54 points.
The pentathlon shot put – the third event – offered some surprise. Day-Monroe – clearly relaxed and now on a roll – delivered a second round bomb of 15.59m [51’1Â¾”]. Her PR heave was good for 900 points, pushing her three event total to 3010. Nwaba’s shot put best of 13.55m [44’5Â½”] earned her 764 points as she fell now 190 points behind the U.S. pentathlete who will compete in Poland.
In the long jump – the pentathlon’s 4th event – an unexpected leap by Day-Monroe of 6.09m [19’11Â¾”] garnered her 877 points, pushing her 4-event total out to 3887. Nwaba’s jump of 5.70m [18’8Â½”] lifted her point total to 3579. But Sami Spenner rode the strength of her prodigious jump of 6.34m [20’9Â¾”] pushing her point total to 3575 – just 4 points out of second.
At the start of the pentathlon’s concluding event – the 800 meter run – defending champion Sharon Day-Monroe sported a daunting 308 point lead. But she – and the entire Albuquerque Convention Center crowd – was focused on the very real possibility that the American indoor pentathlon record may well be going down. Needing to run under 2:17 to break the record of 4753 held jointly by Dee Dee Nathan and Hyleas Fountain, Day-Monroe tucked into third, ran within herself for 600 meters before laying it out on the final circuit to clock 2:13.19, smash the American standard, and secure her 5th national multi-event title. Almost lost in the exuberance of Day-Monroe’s record was Spenner’s brilliant 2:12.87 800 which finished her furious final two event rally and allowed her to snatch the runner-up spot away from Nwaba.
“Everything was kinda firing on all cylinders and I knew it was going to come down to that long jump,” a happy, yet fatigued champion explained. “To go almost 20 feet on my first jump was a big relief. I was happy to know I was right on pace for the American record.” “The plan was to just kind of tune up and make sure everything is sharp for Poland. But everything was going really well.” And with a smile she added, “And I ended up with the American record.” Any thoughts just before the start of the 800? “Don’t trip. Don’t fall. Don’t have a disaster.”
Eaton’s absence from the heptathlon competition undoubtedly removed much sparkle, but the remaining multi-event warriors were still left to battle for the national heptathlon title. And they knew they wouldn’t have to outperform the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the decathlon to gain the crown.
One of the more invigorated athletes on Day One was Gray Horn. He saw this Eaton-less competition as a rare opportunity. And he was not about to squander it. Horn threw up 897 points in the 60 meter dash with a second place clocking of 6.97, trailing only Michael McPherson whose 6.91 mark was good for 915 points.
In the long jump – the heptathlon’s second event – Horn continued his assault as he uncorked a first round near-PR leap of 7.69 [25’2Â¾”]. His two event total of 1879 wrested the lead away from McPherson, 112 points behind Horn in second place.
Nobody could challenge Ryan Harlan in the shot. His best put of 15.89m [52’1Â¾”] won the third event by nearly 5 feet. Gray Horn registered a best put of 13.36m [43’10”], earned 689 points, and maintained his lead with a three event total of 2568. Jeff Mohl posted a best shot put mark of 11.86m [38’11”] and headed off to the 4th event in the runner-up position 258 points behind the third-place finisher in 2012 Olympic Trials decathlon.
In the high jump – the final event of Day One of the heptathlon – you could sense that Gray Horn’s focus was unshakable. With only one miss through 2.01m [6’7″], Horn was able to dig deep for a third-attempt clearance at 2.05m [6’8Â¼”]. And he followed that with a second attempt clearance at 2.07m [6’9Â½”] – and indoor P.R. Horn just missed an overall HJ P.R. when his oh-so-close third attempt at 2.10m [6’10Â¼”] just flicked off the bar. He gained no ground on Jeff Mohl who also cleared 2.10m. But Horn will take a 258 point lead into tomorrow’s final day of the heptathlon.
A poised, but clearly invigorated, Gray Horn was pleased with his Day One performance. “I knew I was ready something big. I’m not so sure I was ready for something this big,” admitted Horn. “I feel good, though. I feel like I did nothing but a hard workout.” Never a collegiate national champion, Horn shared what a victory in the national heptathlon championship would mean. “It would be another check on the long list of dreams that we all have as multi-eventers. Winning this would give me some momentum, give me that spark that I’ve been looking for, to train, and to keep after it.” When asked about how he views tomorrow’s final three events, Horn offered “My three best events are the long jump, the hurdles, and pole vault. And two of those events are tomorrow.”
And so Gray Horn will head off to rest for the tomorrow’s final day of the heptathlon. The evening will give him time to think about the challenges of Day Two. Ashton Eaton will not be one of them. Undoubtedly, he’ll be thinking about performing at his best in the Day Two events: the 60 meter hurdles, the pole vault, and the concluding 1000 meter run. By doing so, Horn will not earn the right to compete in next month’s world indoor heptathlon championships. But he just might win his first national title.