Track Talk — A Beginner’s Guide to the Multi-Events

The multi-events, or “multis,” as they’re known, consist of the 10-event decathlon for men and the seven-event heptathlon for women. Because of the nature of some of the events, not all occur at indoor competitions, as the men revert to a heptathlon while the women compete in a five-event pentathlon. By contrast, the outdoor multis at the NCAAs take place over two days, with the men competing in five events each day and the women competing in four events on day one and three events on day two.

In order, the men compete in the 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m, 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500, while the women contest the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin, and 800m.

Mitch Modin during a shot put attempt.

Mitch Modin launching his shot put.

As you read this, Day 1 of the men’s NCAA multis has ended. The Ducks have three multi-event athletes entered in this year’s meet; Dakotah Keys is ranked fourth nationally, though neither Mitch Modin nor freshman Ashlee Moore are expected to score.

At one time, Olympic champs in either the decathlon or heptathlon were considered to be the greatest athletes in the world. While this moniker seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years, I still believe that anyone who can excel in seven or 10 events deserves special attention as a superb all-around athlete.

Duck fans have been fortunate to witness some spectacular championship multi performances since the turn of the century, with an amazing four wins on the men’s side (Santiago Lorenzo ’01, Ashton Eaton ’08-’10) and three victories for the women’s team (Brianne Theisen ’09, ’10, ’12).  Let’s hope Ash and Bri eventually produce a flock of little ducklings that matriculate right here in Tracktown; what a bloodline!

Ashton Eaton crossing the finish line.

Ashton Eaton enjoying a win.

One of the charms of watching the multis is that there usually aren’t other events going on. I liken it to attending a baseball double-header where one can sit back and chat with others while easily digesting what’s happening on the field. A good announcer will keep the fans abreast of scores and positions as the multis unfold.

Some fanatics will bring a “Gold Book,” which lists scores for the various events and super fanatics will compare those scores against previous individual bests as a means to forecast a final score. None of this is necessary for a newbie; just kick back, enjoy the day and let the announcing staff do the math. The dean of multis announcers, Frank Zarnowski, has presided over dozens of NCAA championship meets and does a great job communicating information to the crowd.

Keys is competing for his final time as a Duck. While not on the level of once-in-a-lifetime Eaton, Keys matched Eaton’s three conference championships and holds a personal best of 8,068 points, which he scored while finishing third in last year’s NCAA championships.

Dakotah Keyes during a long jump attempt.

Dakotah Keyes – long jump, mid-leap.

He’ll have a bit of a challenge matching Georgia’s Garret Scantling and Maicel Uibo’s personal bests, but I fully expect him to move into no less than third position, as the projected third-place finisher (Pau Tonneson/AZ) has a PR several hundred points fewer than Keys’.

But anything can happen in a multi, as Keys can attest when his failure to clear a height in the pole vault caused him to miss out on becoming the first four-time decathlon champion in Pac-12 history. The other Duck male athlete, sophomore Modin of Bend, will be competing in his first NCAA championship meet, as will the sole Duck female multi athlete, freshman Moore.

While neither is projected to score this week, the future of Duck multis will rest squarely on their shoulders and valuable championship experience should enhance their efforts in upcoming seasons.

Top Photo By: Gary Breedlove

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