First U.S. women’s decathlon at Mizzou

Coach Rick McGuire has pushed for the event for years.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:05 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Liz Young will make history this week.

Young, a junior on the Missouri track and field team, will be one of four women competing in the first official women’s decathlon held in the United States. The event is part of the Audrey Walton Combined Event Carnival beginning Thursday at Walton Track Stadium.

“The first time only happens once, and I get to be a part of that, so it’s pretty exciting,” Young said.

Missouri coach Rick McGuire has been waiting for this moment for years.

One of the biggest proponents of combined track and field events in America, McGuire has long been pushing to have the women’s decathlon included in the Olympics and college athletics.

This week’s decathlon is the first step in what McGuire said will be a long process to have the decathlon become the standard combined event for women in international competition.

“We’re having fun being on the cutting edge, (the) forefront of promoting this event,” McGuire said.

A decathlon combines 10 events. They are the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter run.

The heptathlon, which is made up of seven events, has been the standard combined event for women in the past, but McGuire said he does not expect the decathlon to replace it in the Olympics until the 2012 games.

The decathlon is a more demanding event. The decathlon adds three events that are not included in the heptathlon: the discus, the pole vault and the 100-meter dash. The 200-meter dash is increased to 400, and the 800-meter run is turned into 1,500.

McGuire said the way to get the event into mainstream track and field is simple.

“Part of what will assist that is people start doing it,” McGuire said.

The break McGuire and Kansas State coach Cliff Rovelto needed came in the fall when the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) ratified a world record in the women’s decathlon, a move that gave legitimacy to the event.

McGuire was approached by Austra Skujyte, a Kansas State graduate and reigning Olympic silver medalist in the women’s heptathlon, athlon, a move that gave legitimacy to the event.

McGuire was approached by Austra Skujyte, a Kansas State graduate and reigning Olympic silver medalist in the women’s heptathlon, during a triangular meet in Manhattan, Kan., in January.

“Austra came to me and said, ‘Coach, would you consider having the decathlon in that meet?’ And I went, ‘Sure, perfect plan,’’’ McGuire said.

He said the intention for hosting the decathlon was never to have it be the first in the country. Promoting combined events has been the purpose of the Walton event from its beginning,and McGuire and Rovelto saw the decathlon opportunity as too good to pass up.

McGuire said women have competed in decathlons in the United States before, but there has never been one only for women. This week will be the first time women have competed under the official rules decided upon by the IAAF.

The highlight of the decathlon could be Skujyte. She will compete against Young and two Kansas State athletes, Breanna Eveland and Lindsay Grigoriev.

McGuire said a motive for hosting the event was to give Skujyte a venue to try to break the world record, which is held by Marie Collonville of France at 8,150 points.

He said her 6-foot-2-inch frame and long limbs make her an ideal decathlete.

“If it becomes a decathlon in the Olympic Games, she’ll be there and be hard to beat," McGuire said.

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