Tom Pappas and Hyleas Fountain were in the top spots after the first day of the US Combined Events Championships at Drake University in Des Moines on Friday (25).
The championships are part of the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge.
Pappas, the Paris World Championships decathlon gold medallist who has often fought against recurring injuries in past year seems to have those problems mostly solved as he posted a solid 4234 score after the first five events.
Meanwhile, Fountain, the Beijing silver medallist, found herself in the midst of a career day with a lifetime-best 4068 after the opening session.
Early-season competitions in Europe found America’s top two decathletes - Bryan Clay and Trey Hardee - coming home with nagging injuries making them unavailable for the US Championships. Enter Pappas, the five-time US champion who, at age 32, suddenly found himself as the clear pre-meet favorite. His 4234 on the first day justified that bit of flattery.
The top points in the 100 Metres went to those running in the first heat, which was buoyed by a 3.3 wind, compared with the moderate 1.5 accompanying the second heat. University athlete Trinity Otto, the 3rd-place finisher two weeks ago in the NCAA decathlon, led all competitors with a 10.73 for 922 points, with Joe Detmer (10.80 [906 points]), Miller Moss (10.81 ) and Pappas (11.00 ) following Otto across the line.
Jake Arnold, who ran under eleven seconds for the first time ten days ago in Kladno, did not have the same wind advantage while clocking 11.08 to win the second heat for 843 points.
Otto held on to his lead after the Long Jump with a best of 7.40, the day’s top performance. It left him with an 1832 total and a 33-point lead over Detmer, who maintained his second spot with a 7.33 leap and an aggregate 1799. Pappas held fourth with a 7.26 performance and a total of 1737, as he trailed Moss’s 1755 by only 18 points after the latter’s 7.16 best.
The Shot Put was a most telling event, as a magnificent 16.87 moved Pappas into the overall lead with 2642. On only one previous time - the 2008 Olympic Trials - had the former world champion thrown farther (17.26). Far back of Pappas with the second-best put was Daniel Kinsey at 15.02, but when combined with his comparatively weak marks in the first two events, it left him only in ninth.
The Pappas surge nudged Otto down to the second spot with 2541 as a result of a 13.69 mark, with Detmer holding third at 2428 after a 12.37 thrust. Meanwhile, Mark Jellison moved into overall fourth at 2411 with an excellent 13.93 effort, as Moss tumbled to fifth with 2400 after a 12.63 throw.
Pappas further solidified his lead with a 2.05 leap in the High Jump for a four-event 3492 score. Combined with the 1.93 from Otto, it allowed Pappas a 211-point bulge over the Texan’s 3281 with the 400 metres remaining. Detmer meanwhile responded with an outdoor PB 1.99 and stayed in third with a cumulative 3222, while Arnold performed near PB level with a 2.02 to move into a fourth-place tie at 3205 with Jellison after the latter’s 1.99.
Given his performances in the 400 Metres over the last few seasons, it was predictable that Pappas would shed a portion of his advantage in the day’s final event. But it was not expected that he would end the day with a 51.60—his slowest one-lap time in almost 15 years—and see his lead shrink to only 82 points as Otto cruised to a 48.79, only 0.01 off his career best, as the leader board read 4234 and 4152 as the competitors retired for the night. Detmer (47.78) and Moss (47.90) both performed at their recent sub-48 levels for overall scores of 4142 and 4108, respectively, as Arnold (49.22 ) and Mat Clark (49.20 ) rounded out the list of six competitors over the benchmark 4000 points after the first day.
With no one expected to challenge her over the next two days, Hyleas Fountain had as her main goal, after her non-finish in Götzis, simply to score as many points as she could.
And punching through the 1100-point level on the first two events, the Fountain juggernaut eventually swept all four events, ending up with a lifetime first-day best of 4068, exceeding the 4060 she accumulated when leading the Beijing Olympics after the opening session.
Today, the Olympic silver medallist started with a determined 12.93 time in the 100 Metres Hurdles to open the competition and registered 1135 points, almost 100 more than the 1039 collected by Aisha Adams after a 13.58 run. Emily Pearson and Kasey Hill shared the third spot with 13.72 and 1018 points.
The High Jump saw Fountain continue her tear with a PB 1.90 jump which brought 1106 points for a two-event total of 2241. Bettie Wade, who represented the US in the Berlin World Championships, leaped 1.81 as did Adreona Bradford. That added 991 points to the totals for each, which stood at 2001 and 1995, respectively.
Sharon Day, also in Berlin in both the heptathlon and the individual high jump, was off her usual form and found her limit at 1.78. She stood in fifth overall with 1914, behind the 1934 of Dorcas Akinniyi.
Fountain continued to show her supremacy over the Heptathlon field with a 13.73 in the Shot Put which resulted in a three-event 3017. Hill rose to the occasion in this event with a big PB improvement to 13.67 to rank just behind Fountain in the shot put, but her 2561 total was only enough for fifth place overall at this point.
Wade and Day were two-three after efforts of 12.32 and 13.22 yielded cumulative totals of 2683 and 2656, respectively. Akinniyi slipped back after an 11.55 put but was still able to barely hold fourth with 2565.
Covering the 200 Metres in 23.28, Fountain ended the first day with a remarkable 4068 total, the feat being all the more incredible without a real challenge from any of the other competitors. Bettie Wade clocked a near-PB 24.64 for an overnight total of 3603 and stayed four points ahead of Sharon Day, who held fast to third with a PB 24.40 and 3599 points.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
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