Heptathletes sprouting in Central Oregon

Mountain View, Summit and Sisters cultivate multi-event athletes

By Grant Lucas / The Bulletin / @GrantLucas88

Published Apr 15, 2014 at 12:01AM

GAME OF THE WEEK

Kyra Hajovsky posted a goal late in regulation to force overtime against Marist of Eugene on Wednesday, and Annie Beaver delivered a second wave of heroics for Central Oregon Lacrosse. With 24 seconds left in the second overtime of the South League girls lacrosse matchup, Beaver logged her fourth goal to help Central Oregon secure a 13-12 home victory.

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK

It took Matthew Maton less than four minutes to break a 1,500-meter record that had stood for nearly 50 years. At the Jim Robinson Twilight Invitational track and field meet in Roseburg on Saturday, the Summit junior completed the 1,500 in 3:54.2, winning by more than seven seconds and breaking the meet’s top mark that was set in 1976.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Thirty-eight. Ridgeview baseball picked up a doubleheader sweep of visiting Estacada on Friday, and the Ravens put on an offensive clinic. Ridgeview banged out 18 hits in a 20-1 victory in the first game, then followed with another 20 hits in a 14-6 win. The Ravens accounted for 38 hits in total, led by George Mendazona’s 7-for-8 day at the plate and Tyler Ross’ 6-for-7 performance over the two games.

Andy Young used to call them “masters of mediocrity.” He meant no disrespect, to be sure. (In fact, he quickly catches himself and agrees that “masters of above average” might be more fitting.) But, as the second-year Mountain View track and field coach notes, “that’s what makes a good heptathlete and a good decathlete.”

“The thing about being a heptathlete or a decathlete is that you can be a pretty good (multi-event athlete) if you’re OK at everything,” says Young, who himself was a college decathlete at Oregon from 2002 to 2006. “You don’t have to be stellar at any one event. … That’s one of the beauties of it. You just have to be OK at everything.”

Michaela Miller can buy that take.

“The mindset for a heptathlon is you don’t always have to be first (in each event),” the Sisters sophomore says. “Just finish well, and take each event at a time and focus on that one.”

If nothing else, heptathletes and decathletes just may be the greatest chameleons around.

“You definitely have to have a few different personalities,” says Kristen Place, a Mountain View junior heptathlete-in-training. “Distance (running) is way different than throwing, so you have to be a whole different athlete.”

In Central Oregon, multi-event athletes have begun to sprout up in recent years, especially after the 2012 Olympic gold-medal performance of decathlete and Mountain View graduate Ashton Eaton. (For example, 2013 Mountain View graduate Mitch Modin competes in the decathlon for the Ducks, as did Eaton.)

While there may not be many male athletes in the Central Oregon high school ranks currently looking to master the 10-event challenge that is the decathlon, several girls have emerged as promising — and potentially masterful — heptathletes.

Where to start? There is Place, who began training last summer with Modin and hopes this summer to compete for the first time in a heptathlon — a seven-event competition that includes sprints, hurdles, shot put, javelin, high jump and long jump. There is Miller, who after just two months of training placed second at the Sweet Home Decathlon/Heptathlon in March. And then there are Summit’s Miranda Brown, a junior, and Megan Cornett, a freshman, the first- and third-place heptathlon finishers among the 16 competitors at the Sweet Home meet.

“More than anything, I wasn’t really finding excellence in any other event,” Brown says, explaining how she developed an interest in multi-events. “I felt like, ‘I’m pretty good in all the other events, so I might as well just do it all as a whole.’ And it turned out to be really successful.”

“I think the reason we do let them train for the hep(tathlon) … I think that’s going to make those athletes better overall athletes, which should help them in their individual events,” says Summit coach Dave Turnbull. “And you know what? This season will tell us.”

So far, the season’s story is reading like a fairy tale.

As of Sunday, Brown ranked sixth in the state in the 300-meter hurdles, regardless of classification, and owned the eighth-best triple jump measurement. She was first in Class 5A for the 300 hurdles, second in both the 100 hurdles and the triple jump, fourth in the long jump and fifth in the 200.

“We’ve got some females on the team that are very, very well-rounded,” Turnbull says. “They’re fast, they’re strong, they’re athletic, they’re intelligent. And those are the things you need in a heptathlete.”

And it is not just Brown. Cornett through Sunday was 10th in 5A in the 300 hurdles. Place had the fifth-best 100 time. And Miller already this spring has set career-best marks in six events. All of that after focusing all their energy upon and committing themselves to heptathlon training, which consists of learning different techniques in each event.

The quick adaptiveness demonstrated by each of these local athletes, Turnbull points out, is the key to why they are now promising multi-event athletes.

“I really do think a heptathlete as to be very, very intelligent, because they have to understand what they’re doing, they have to understand the science behind the events,” Turnbull explains. “They can’t just jump in and do it. Most people aren’t just natural athletes in everything from the shot put to the javelin to the high jump. It’s just not going to happen. They’ve got to figure it out.”

The No. 1 attraction to multi-events for Miller (aside from the fact that her mother, Eden, was an accomplished heptathlete at NCAA Division II Seattle Pacific University) is the combination of events that make up the heptathlon. Brown agrees, noting that the heptathlon offers a variety of athletics that “I probably would never have tried otherwise.”

“That’s kind of the philosophy of the heptathlon,” says Turnbull, a veteran track coach whose Summit teams have won a combined 10 boys and girls 5A state championships since 2007. “If we can just play with some of these things and figure it out, we might discover some kids. I think that’s what we did and what we’re going to continue to do.”

“I love it. I love the idea that they’re just so excited to do all sorts of different events,” says Mountain View’s Young. “What comes with that is being more of a student of the sport itself. You have to know all the events in depth in order to be successful. That’s what’s exciting.”

In his 12 previous years at Summit, Turnbull was never in a situation like this, having to create a multi-event training program. But now that he has a crop of arguably the most athletic girls ever to compete in track and field for the Storm, Turnbull has begun cultivating the program’s first heptathletes.

Even during the track season — when there are few heptathlons on the schedule, and when athletes are focused on consistent improvement in their regular events en route to the state championships — Central Oregon’s heptathletes continue to stay on the seven-event grind. All, Turnbull says, to “make the best athlete,” regardless of whether it could cost Summit points at the Class 5A state meet next month.

“The high school kids should have as much fun and experience as much as they can while they’re in high school,” Young adds. “If that means that I lose a couple of points at a meet, then I’m OK with that. My biggest focus has always been on the kids having fun and experiencing different events.”

Young calls this local spike in interest to compete in multi-event athletics “the Ashton Eaton effect.”

“The Ashton Eaton connection is kind of sparking kids,” Young says. “Like, ‘Hey, well, why just do one event when I can try a whole bunch of other ones?’ Where we’re having a lot of people find success is in events that they didn’t think they’d be good at.”

Two years ago, Place, the Mountain View junior, had the opportunity to meet Eaton and his fiancee (now his wife), Brianne Theisen, who is also a world-class multi-event athlete. That meeting, Place says, got her thinking about multi-even sports.

“He’s kind of opened my eyes up to believing this was possible,” Brown, the Summit junior, says of Eaton. “In high school — I was looking at his marks — he wasn’t amazing at any given event. But yeah, he was pretty good at most. That gave me the idea that I’m not exceptional at anything so I’ll just try everything.”

Place concedes that her choice to take on the heptathlon is straining, both physically and mentally. But for the sport she loves — track and field — the rewards have been well worth the strain.

“I think I appreciate the sport more,” Place says. “I’ve never gone over to the throws until this season, and I get to meet more people and learn how to do different things. Every event in track is just a different side of the sport, and I love all of it. It’s giving me more experience in different types of athletics.”

“Now it’s driving me,” Brown says of her recent success, “knowing that maybe I am good at this, that I can go beyond my dreams of what I ever thought before.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com.