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Life in combo nation

BY JORDAN HANSEN | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Often in sports, training is used to improve one specific aspect of whatever the athlete specializes in.

Now imagine trying to learn and train in 10 different events every day.

That is the life of a combined athlete.

Assistant coach Molly Brown leads this group of unique athletes who compete in the pentathlon and decathlon. In her opinion, there are a certain series of intangibles that go into making a good combined-event athlete.

“The combined-event athletes have to be a little crazier and not satisfied doing only one event,” Brown said. “Personality is also something that I look for, someone with a good work ethic who is willing to put in the work because they have two- to three-hour practices a day.”

Those three-hour practices put wear and tear on the athletes, which makes mental toughness a valuable commodity.

The dedication that these athletes have to this event is demonstrated by this: Out of the five men’s combined athletes, only one — senior Jack Eckert — is eligible for competition. The remainder are either redshirting, or like senior Kyle Reid, have exhausted their eligibility.

For Eckert, his fellow combined athletes on the track training with him are what keeps him motivated day in and day out.

“Coming out here together, we’ve gotten really close — we’re good friends on and off the track,” Eckert said. “You’re out here for a long time, and it can get stressful and wear on you, but having those people around to joke around helps a lot, too.”

Everything that the combined-event athletes do could really be epitomized by the decathlon.

That event is a monster. When the athletes do get to compete — the event does not take place at many smaller meets — it takes place over two eight-hour days and almost never goes as the athletes plan.

“You have 10 events, and they never go the way that you want them to,” Eckert said. “You have to mentally tough and durable to get through a decathlon or even just training over the course of the season.”

The durability also comes along with the physicality of the sport, which is demanding and requires a number of different skills in order to be successful.

Those skills are across a broad range of specialties, including jumping, hurdling, sprinting, and throwing. One thing those all have in common?

“Speed and explosiveness — you definitely need to have that in most of the events; coordination too,” Reid said. “Each event is a lot of technique and that’s really something that a lot of people might not know.”

All things considered, Brown likes her athletes a lot and believes that they have a lot of the qualities that she deems important.

“They work really hard, but they enjoy themselves while they do it, which I really like that about them,” Brown said. “It’s definitely an interesting group, and they get a lot of stuff accomplished.”


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