Pierce Lepage in the decathlon high jump in Ottawa (© Brian Rouble / organisers)
Canada’s Pierce Lepage and USA’s Sami Spenner are the overnight leaders at the Pan American Combined Events Cup, part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, being held this week in Ottawa.
As in 2016, the 21-year-old took the lead from the first event thanks to his 10.59 clocking in the 100m. He then landed at 7.33m in the long jump and was overtaken in the third event by fellow Canadian Taylor Stewart, who impressed with the best performances of the day in the long jump (7.55m) and the shotput (15.09m).
Lepage regained the lead after topping the high jump with 2.08m, the same height as Cuba’s Briander Rivero. He finished strong with a season’s best of 47.79 in the 400m, the fastest of the day.
After three events, he totalled 4330 points, slightly lower than his 4379 when he trailed compatriot and world silver medallist Damian Warner for second at the Hypo Meeting in Götzis, and 122 points shy of his best ever day-one score, set en route to his 8027 PB in Talence last year.
“I had a good first day,” said Lepage. “I had better jumps that were fouls. Sometimes it happens and I just look forward to day two. There’s so much room for improvement and that’s what I have been focusing on. It’s fun to compete internationally, but at home it’s the best.”
Lepage said that his experience at the Hypo Meeting in Götzis – regarded by many as an ‘unofficial world championships for combined events’ – has given him extra motivation.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I was the youngest competitor there with multiple Olympians. You can feel their experience. Coming back, I hopefully learned something that will help me improve.”
Stewart is currently in second with 4087 points, followed by USA’s Robert Robinson (4017) and James Turner (4014).
One of the top contenders, Cuba’s 2016 world U20 fourth-place finisher Santiago Ford, did not start the long jump after suffering cramps in his left leg during the 100m.
Spenner leads in swansong heptathlon
In an exciting opening day of the heptathlon, the lead changed after each of the four disciplines.
USA’s Kaylee Hinton became the first leader after her 13.73 run in the 100m hurdles. The second fastest over the barriers, US compatriot Juanita Webster, moved to the front with the best clearance in the high jump (1.79m).
However, her lead was short-lived as Canada’s Nicole Oudenaarden produced the best effort in the shot put (14.03m) to move into the pole position.
Having been consistently near the top in each event, USA’s Sami Spenner ended her day with a 24.39 clocking in the 200m, enough to give her the overnight lead with 3504 points. With just 159 points separating the top six, Spenner is currently followed by Oudenaarden (3477), USA’s Jordan Gray (3369), Webster (3359), Canada’s Jillian Drouin (3352) and Hinton (3345).
“I was very happy with the hurdles; it was a season’s best and I felt good about the race,” said Spenner, who has a PB of 6019. “I tied my personal best in the high jump, I managed a solid throw in the shot after two fouls and finished strong in the 200m. Overall it was a very solid day, but high jump was my surprise event as I had only done four high jumps the month leading up this competition.”
For the 26-year old from Nebraska, the Pan American Cup marks her first overseas competition but also the end of competitive career before returning to university later this year to study physical therapy.
“I want to finish on a high note,” she added. “There are amazing competitors here and I have to work hard if I want to stay in the lead. I have some people gunning for me. You compete better when you have someone right behind you.
“Track and field has been a huge chapter of my life,” she added. “I graduated from university in 2014 and had two years off to train for the trials and give myself a shot at the (2016) Olympic team. It’s been a huge blessing to have track and field in my and I am now coaching high school.”
The Pan American Combined Events Cup also awarded the best U18 and U20 athletes on Tuesday, with the U18 titles going to Guatemala’s defending champion Mauricio Galindo (6011) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Antonia Sealy (4316), who improved from her second place a year ago.
Trinidad and Tobago completed the double among girls as Tyra Gittens totalled 5490 in windy conditions to take the U20 gold. The men’s crown stayed in Canada with Laurent Grandmangin (6076).
The Pan American Cup continues on Wednesday with the second and final day of the senior division. More than 70 athletes from 11 countries are taking part.
The event, hosted by the Ottawa Lions over the past five years, also serves as the Canadian U20, U18 and senior championships for both the heptathlon and decathlon. It will then be followed by the Canadian Track and Field Championships, the selection trials for the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF