By Murray Evans
ROME, Ga. (May 2, 2014) – Oklahoma Christian sophomore Austin Wallace entered the decathlon’s final event, the 1,500 meters, with a slim two-point lead over the favorite, Justin Young of Azusa Pacific (Calif.). So when Young made his move to the front halfway through the race, Wallace followed.
Eventually Young’s gambit failed, as he wore down and Wallace passed him heading into the final lap. That move clinched for Wallace the national title in the event at the National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday at Barron Stadium.
Wallace, a sophomore from Edmond, finished with a career-best 6,428 points and became only the third OC athlete ever to win a national title in the decathlon, joining Jeff Bennett (1969 and 1970) and Gary Hill (1972), who both won NAIA championships.
“It’s pretty fun to win the decathlon, because you go through two whole days, five events a day,” Wallace said. “It feels good to be able to finish it up and do well in most events.
“It’s weird to hear my name next to those guys, because they’re such great athletes from the past, but it feels pretty good.”
Wallace also finished sixth in the javelin on Friday and earned 13 team points in his two events, keeping the Eagles in the mix for a top-five finish. OC, which led the team standings after the first day of the three-day meet, was in third with 29 points, trailing only Bethel (Ind.) with 43.5 and Azusa Pacific (Calif.) with 30.
Wallace’s father, Tony Wallace, was a former decathlete for the Eagles and OC head coach Randy Heath had pegged Austin Wallace to become a multi-event performer soon after he signed with OC. Austin Wallace finished second in the NCCAA indoor heptathlon the past two years but missed last year’s NCCAA outdoor meet due to injury.
He made up for lost time this year. He won three events on Thursday – the 100 meters, 400 meters and shot put – to take the lead. He entered Friday with a 213-point lead over Young and expanded it to 220 by winning the 110-meter hurdles, but Young began chipping away in the discus, pole vault and javelin, setting up the showdown in the 1,500.
Knowing it didn’t matter where he finished, as long as he finished ahead of Young, Wallace didn’t concern himself with trying to win the race.
“My plan the whole race was to stick right on him from behind, then beat him out in the end,” Wallace said. “It ended up working out. I was able to get him. I had enough points that I really wasn’t worried about the (other) guys.”
Heath noted the proud history of the decathlon at OC. The university’s only two Olympians – Bennett and Erich Momberger of Papua New Guinea – were decathletes, and Bennett (who set the still-standing school record of 8,072 points in 1970) is now an OC assistant coach, working with multi-event participants such as Wallace.
“There’s a lot of history and tradition there and Jeff is the king of the decathlon in OC history, and then Gary Hill and we’ve had several others since then,” Heath said. “Austin has been a great multi-eventer for us. He’s overcome a lot of things this year to get better in each event. That’s outstanding. I know he’s looking forward to the future, also.”
Wallace headed straight from running the decathlon 1,500 to compete in the javelin. He was ranked third in the event but finished sixth with a throw of 46.29 meters.
In the only other men’s throwing event Friday, OC senior Nate Donley took 16th in a 19-man field with a mark of 38 meters in the discus.
In the 400 meters, OC’s Joshua Jones was 17th in 51.40 seconds and Trenton Parker 19th in 51.95 seconds in the 26-man field. The Eagles also had a trio of runners in the 200 meters, with Jones finishing 22nd in the 31-man field in 22.75 seconds, Jamal George 25th in 22.86 seconds and Austin Kruzich 29th in 23.14 seconds.
OC also fielded a 4x800-meter relay team, but the Eagles fell behind early and never contended, finishing last in a nine-team field. All four of OC’s runners – Kyle Broaddrick, Brennym Kaelin, Roberto Diaz and Brayden Barrientez – were using the race as a prep for individual races on Saturday.