Tim Duckworth in the decathlon at the NCAA Championships (© Kirby Lee)
If you belong in the same sentence with Daley Thompson and Ashton Eaton, you’ve had a good decathlon.
Tim Duckworth earned that honour on Wednesday and Thursday during the first two days of the NCAA Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The 21-year-old Briton, who is a student at the University of Kentucky, scored 8336 to finish 199 points ahead of runner-up Karl Saluri. Duckworth and world record-holder Eaton are the only athletes in NCAA history to win the decathlon and heptathlon in the same year. Duckworth climbed to third on the British all-time list behind two-time Olympic champion Thompson and Dean Macey.
Duckworth won all three jumping events, long jumping a decathlon meeting record of 8.01m, high jumping 2.13m and pole vaulting 5.11m to score 2932 points from those three events alone. Only Tom Pappas (2985), Eaton (2974) and Thomas van der Plaetsen (2963) have scored more in the jumps within one decathlon.
Duckworth collapsed to the track after finishing the 1500m. Although he was last in that event, his time of 5:01.27 was just off his two-year-old PB.
“You walk into this event, it must look hilarious because we’re all over the place,” he said in an ESPN interview. “That 1500m is just gruelling.”
He favoured his ankle after a mishap in the high jump but said a trainer treated the injury and it didn’t affect him.
“It was a well-rounded two days,” said Duckworth, who now moves to fourth on the 2018 world list.
His other marks were 10.57 in the 100m, 13.15m in the shot put, a PB of 48.87 in the 400m, 14.37 in the 110m hurdles, 42.76m in the discus and a PB of 57.27m in the javelin.
Duckworth’s mark in the long jump was better than what many of the pre-event favourites managed in the individual event and would have been enough for third place. Damarcus Simpson and Grant Holloway, who have both produced wind-assisted marks beyond 8.30m this year, finished 10th (7.81m) and ninth (7.83m) respectively.
Zack Bazile – from Ohio State, alma mater of the immortal Jesse Owens – surprisingly won with a distance of 8.37m, 34 centimetres farther than his previous PB.
Meeting records fall
Meeting records were set by 20-year-old Chris Nilsen in the pole vault (5.83m) and Denzel Comenentia of the Netherlands in the hammer (76.41m). Comenentia became a double champion on Wednesday, taking the shot put with 20.61m.
Grenada’s Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Anderson Peters, a student at Mississippi State University, won the javelin with a meeting record of 82.82m.
Canada’s Ben Flanagan, seeded 23rd in a field of 24, won the 10,000m for the University of Michigan in a PB 28:34.53. With a 56.95 last lap, he overtook Kenya’s Vincent Kiprop in the closing metres. Flanagan endeared himself to the TV audience when he was seen shouting, “Where’s my mom?” while holding his head in his hands in astonishment.
Irby impresses, McLaughlin advances with ease
In Thursday women's events, Lynna Irby turned in a sensational 200m/400m double within a one-hour window.
The 19-year-old won her 400m semifinal in 50.11, just .01 off the meeting record set by Monique Henderson in 2005 and fourth on the all-time collegiate list. 47 minutes later, Irby won her 200m semifinal in 22.37 into a headwind. NCAA indoor champion Gabby Thomas had the top 200m time of 22.36 (2.2m/s).
Sydney McLaughlin, who earlier this year set a world U20 record of 52.75 (pending ratification) in the 400m hurdles, easily advanced in her specialist event with 54.15.
Louisiana State set a meeting record of 42.09, just .04 off their world-leading time, in the 4x100m semi-finals. Little more than an hour later, their star sprinter Aleia Hobbs clocked 10.91 to lead the qualifiers for Saturday’s 100m final.
In the first women’s track final of the championships, six women finished inside the 30-year-old meeting record in the 10,000m. Kenya’s Sharon Lokedi of Kansas University overtook favoured Karissa Schweizer on the last lap to win in 32:09.20. Compatriot Dorcas Wasike, representing the University of Louisville, was second in 32:11.81 and Schweizer third in 32:14.94.
In the absence of Maggie Ewen, Janeah Stewart edged Brooke Andersen in the hammer, 72.92m to 72.87m. Ewen twice raised the collegiate record on April 6 – ultimately to 74.53m – but failed to advance out of the West Regional. Ewen took the shot put at 19.17m and will aim to add a discus title to her collection
Other winners included repeat champion Olivia Gruver in the pole vault (4.55m) and Keturah Orji in the long jump (6.67m).
This will be the final meeting held under Hayward Field’s current figuration because a new stadium is being built for the 2021 IAAF World Championships.
The remaining men’s finals are on Friday and women’s on Saturday.
Roy Jordan for the IAAF