For U decathlete, risk has reward

The Gophers' Jack Szmanda has progressed from breaking bones to breaking records as he prepares to compete in the NCAA track meet.

hide

Gophers junior Jack Szmanda set personal bests in half of his 10 decathlon events at the Big Ten track and field meet last month and scored 7,862 points. He finished second behind Nebraska junior Bjorn Barrefors, Sweden’s national champion.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Jack Szmanda admits he is a bit crazy because of the pursuit he chose.

But the Gophers decathlete, who will compete in the NCAA track and field meet starting Wednesday at Drake University, always has been a daredevil.

He grew up in Wausau, Wis., next to a ski hill.

"I went off a couple of jumps that I shouldn't have and tried things -- I have broken many bones," Szmanda said.

His injuries have come ski jumping. Or skateboarding. Or mountain biking. Even pole vaulting, which he says came easily to him in high school.

"[The pole vault] is pretty extreme," Szmanda said.

The event is still his best, but now the 6-3, 210-pound architect-in-training has diversified. He is one of the best college-age "multis," which is how athletes in decathlons, heptathlons and pentathlons refer to themselves.

At the Big Ten meet last month, Szmanda broke the Gophers record in the decathlon with a score of 7,862. He set personal bests in five of the 10 events.

That score is the sixth-highest in the country going into the national meet. It also means Szmanda probably will qualify for the U.S. Olympics trials on June 22 and 23 in Eugene, Ore. He is only 30 points short of the automatic standard in the decathlon, and has met the B standard.

"I never thought I would be at this level," Szmanda said. "It is kind of surreal."

"When we initially looked at him, we thought he would be pretty good," said assistant coach Paul Thornton, who came to the Gophers the same year as Szmanda, a redshirt junior. "[But being] able to place second at the Big Ten meet and you are able to break the University of Minnesota mark, you can never speculate that. And this is [only] his third year doing it, so there is a lot of room for him to actually grow."

Szmanda became comfortable with a heavy workload as an all-conference football player at Wausau Newman High School. He was a hurdler, high jumper and pole vaulter in track, and was a state champion in the latter event.

"They are the three most technical events in the dec," Szmanda said, "so it was easier to transition to just the decathlon [as a Gopher]. It was a good fit. I feel like training for one event would get repetitive and boring."

As a redshirt freshman, Szmanda placed ninth in the seven-event heptathlon at the NCAA indoor meet but, hampered by hamstring injuries as a sophomore, had not qualified for a national meet since then until this week.

In the first of his two decathlons this spring, Szmanda set six personal records at the Mt. Sac Relays in Walnut, Calif., on April 20-21. The Big Ten meet in mid-May in Madison, Wis., was his second test.

"It was great weather, [my] training was where it should have been," Szmanda said. "I was feeling good body-wise. I wasn't sore. I wasn't tired. And it all came together."

He set PRs in the first two events, the 100-meter dash and the long jump, his most inconsistent event.

Then the second day he almost no-heighted in the pole vault, needing three tries to clear his opening height (16 feet, 3 inches).

"I was a little tired from doing the open vault the day before [where he finished third, at 17-3] and the first day of the dec, so I was having a hard time getting down the runway," Szmanda said. "I was putting together the best dec of my life and I was pretty nervous."

He eventually cleared 16-11. The javelin was his next event, the second to last. And Szmanda, obviously relieved, set a PR by about 26 feet, at 178-7. His final 10-event total of 7,862 was only 35 points behind Nebraska junior Bjorn Barrefors, who is Sweden's national champion.

"We are kind of crazy putting ourselves through it," Szmanda said of the mental and physical rigors of the decathlon, "but there are all different kinds of athletes. We are just a different breed. I always have to be doing something."

  • NCAA OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

    When: Today-Saturday • Where: Drake Stadium, Des Moines

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Orlando 6:30 PM
Miami
Washington 7:00 PM
Houston
Utah 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Boston
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Washington 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Montreal 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Colorado 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Nashville 7:30 PM
Chicago
NY Rangers 7:30 PM
Dallas
Los Angeles 8:00 PM
Calgary
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Arizona
Rice 12:00 PM
Texas
UMass Lowell 1:00 PM
Boston College
Johnson (TN) 5:00 PM
Char Southern
Wentworth 6:00 PM
Boston Univ
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Chattanooga
Toledo 6:00 PM
Duke
FIU 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Quincy 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
James Madison
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
LSU
Capital 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Maine 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
North Florida 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Fair-Dickinson 6:00 PM
Towson
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Rider 6:00 PM
Wagner
IUPUI 6:00 PM
NC Central
Southern Arkansas 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Howard Payne 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Hampton 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Mount St Marys 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Midwestern St 7:00 PM
SMU
Tennessee St 7:00 PM
TCU
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Alice Lloyd 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Nebraska Omaha 7:05 PM
Chicago State
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Auburn
Portland 8:00 PM
BYU
Saint Josephs 8:00 PM
Denver
Pepperdine 8:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Francisco 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Stephen F Austin 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Santa Clara 9:00 PM
Pacific
UC Irvine 10:00 PM
Oregon
Gonzaga 10:00 PM
San Diego
Ark-Pine Bluff 10:00 PM
Stanford
Southern U 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Holy Cross 11:00 AM
Western Mich
Chattanooga 12:00 PM
South Dakota
UNC Greensboro 12:00 PM
Florida A&M
Savannah State 12:00 PM
Fordham
NJIT 12:00 PM
Clemson
St Gregorys 1:00 PM
Oral Roberts
CS-Northridge 1:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Harvard 1:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Norfolk State 1:30 PM
Stony Brook
LSU 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Princeton 2:00 PM
Hartford
New Mexico St 2:00 PM
Southern Utah
SIU-Edwardsville 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Lipscomb 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Miami-Ohio 3:30 PM
Davidson
Nebraska Omaha 4:00 PM
Utah Valley U
Robert Morris 5:00 PM
Marshall
UC-Riverside 5:00 PM
Brown
Kennesaw St 5:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Auburn 5:00 PM
FIU
Seattle 6:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
(21) West Virginia
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Ole Miss
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
Nicholls
Rider 6:00 PM
Delaware
Drexel 6:00 PM
Virginia
Furman 6:00 PM
Elon
UMBC 6:00 PM
Penn
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Akron 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Florida State
Grambling 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Evansville 6:00 PM
(7) Louisville
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Belmont
Chicago State 6:00 PM
Wright State
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Canisius
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Iona 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Ohio State 6:00 PM
(15) Maryland
Mercer 6:30 PM
Jacksonville St
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
(19) Miss State
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
(18) Oklahoma St
James Madison 7:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Texas Southern 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Hampton
Prairie View 7:00 PM
(6) Baylor
Samford 7:00 PM
Kansas
South Dakota St 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Howard 7:30 PM
Iowa State
Old Dominion 8:00 PM
California
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Utah
(5) Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Washington
San Diego 8:00 PM
Gonzaga
(10) Duke 8:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
UT Martin 8:00 PM
Arizona
(12) Nebraska 8:00 PM
Minnesota
Coll of Idaho 8:00 PM
Idaho State
BYU 9:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 9:00 PM
Santa Clara
St Marys-CA 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close