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Dueling Devils: friendly rivaly put to the test in decathlon points battle Phillip Brents | Thu, Jun 23 2011 11:36 PM

Who might be the best all-around athlete at Sweetwater High School? That question may be open to debate, though Red Devil teammates Luis Venegas and Spencer Curtis decided to put it to the test — at least between themselves — at last weekend’s San Diego Multi-Event Championship meet at Cuyamaca College.

They both represented themselves  well with top-four finishes in leading the Red Devils to a tie with Grossmont for the boys decathlon team title.

For the record, Venegas, a hurdler/pole vaulter during the track and field season and wide receiver/linebacker in football, out-pointed Curtis, a high jumper/pole vaulter and member of the school’s boys basketball team, by 52 points in the friendly rivalry.

Overall, Venegas finished third among the 10 place-winners  in the 10-event series with 4,839 points. Curtis was fourth with 4,287 points.

“We’re very competitive against each other — we had always wondered who was the better all-around athlete between the two of us,” said Curtis, the reigning South Bay League champion in the boys high jump and pole vault events.

“We wanted to do this last year but things didn’t work out,” Venegas added.

After finishing the 10 events last weekend, now they finally know. Venegas has personal bragging rights — for this year, at least.

“It feels good to come out on top between us two,” Venegas said, boasting a satisfied smile.

Curtis interjected:  “Once I practice more on the running events, I know I’ll beat him next year.”

Besides the two SuHi entrants, the decathlon field also included Bonita Vista’s Daniel Torres and German Palma. Torres finished ninth with 3,422 points while Palma — the 2010 Mesa League boys pole vault champion — had to withdraw after three events after incurring an injury.

The event, sponsored by the San Diego Pole Vault Club, took place June 10-11 alongside the seven-event girls heptathlon.

Steele Canyon’s Monique Van, an incoming junior, handily captured the heptathlon title with 4,003 points. She has set a personal goal to compete in the women’s heptathlon at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Murrieta Valley’s Solomon Ijah captured this year’s decathlon title with 6,269 points.

Van and Ijah’s 2011 winning point totals rank second all-time in the last 23 years for which records have been kept for the meet.

SuHi pride
Venegas, who finished second in the South Bay League pole vault finals and fourth in the league’s 110 high hurdles, entered the final event of the decathlon — the 1,500 run — just 30 points out of second place.

However, Grossmont’s Adam Omahen — a miler and pole vaulter during the high school track season — cruised to the top mark in the metric mile event with a time of 4:38.6 to secure possession of second place by a final margin of 247 points.

Venegas finished well back in the pack with a time of 5:15.9. Curtis, well, let us say, finished the race with a time of 6:02.8.

Venegas said that if it wasn’t for an injury suffered during the first event of the second day — the 110 high hurdles — his quest for a second-place finish might have turned out more fortuitous.

“I fell during the hurdles and kind of tweaked my knee,” he said. “I got back up and finished but I lost some points. If I didn’t fall, I might have won the event.”

Venegas timed 18.6 in the hurdles event despite the spill. In fact, he came back to finish second in his heat. His best time in the event this past spring was 16.84.

“You’ve always got to finish what you start,” he said. “I was out there (in all the events) just trying to do my best,” he said.

Venegas held second place after the first day of competition with 2,699 points — 78 points ahead of Christian’s Robert Speiring, 169 points ahead of Omahen and 255 points ahead of Curtis.

Venegas had the second-best mark in the shot put (35-7.25), third-best time in the 100 dash (12.2), third-best mark in the long jump (18-3.75) and third-best mark in the 400 dash (55.1). 

In the final five events, the knee injury began to take its toll. He had the fourth-best mark in the discus throw (98-7), fifth-best marks in the pole vault (10-7) and javelin throw (103-6) and sixth-best time in the 1,500 run.

His best this past prep season in the pole vault was 10-6 — a height he matched at the league finals.

Athletes do not rack up points based on place-finish but rather on performance in each event. Better times or marks are rewarded with higher point totals.

Meet director Lyle Barton said hurdlers and pole vaulters tend to make the better decathletes.

“Both those events require being coordinated and aware of your body position,” Barton said. “That makes them better able to adapt to the other events.”

Curtis won this year’s South Bay League high jump title by clearing 6-0 and captured the top mark in the league in the pole vault by clearing 11-0. He competed at this year’s San Diego Section championship meet in the high jump, placing eighth among Division I entrants at 6-1.
His best in the two events are 6-3 in the high jump and 12-0 in the pole vault.

At this year’s decathlon, Curtis tied Ijah for the top mark in the high jump at 6-0.5 and finished tied for second overall in the pole vault at 11-7.

Coronado’s Will Bartsch cleared 12-0.75 to record the top mark in the pole vault.
Curtis also bested Venegas’ marks in the long jump (19-0) and discus throw (103-9).
“The pole vault takes a lot of practice,” Curtis said. “Sometimes you just pick up some little bit of technique and it gets you to go six inches higher. The high jump is based more on what you can do at the beginning, you start to pick up the technique later.”

Curtis has been vaulting for two years. His best mark his first year was 10-6. His goal next track season is to clear 6-10 in the high jump.

Venegas said his goal is to place his name on the all-time Sweetwater leader board. Among the names already positioned high in the decathlon is that of former football/track standout Trandon Harvey, a 2001 Red Devil graduate who went on to play collegiate football at Washington State University and professionally with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League.

Harvey caught 126 passes for 1,780 yards and 36 touchdowns his final two years at the National City school. He placed fourth at the state finals in the long jump his senior year.

After completing all 10 events, Venegas said he has developed a better appreciation for his teammates on the track team who are competing in other than his own specialty events.

“Now I understand why they are so tired after doing their events in practice,” he said.

Torres, who finished in a tie for third in the pole vault (a personal record 11-0) at the 2011 Mesa League finals, called his two-day decathlon experience “fun.”

“I was always interested in it,” he said. “I wanted to get a feel for it. The javelin is one of the events you don’t do in high school.”

Torres plans to pursue the decathlon after joining the Air Force. “Now I want to get more practice in some of the events. I had never high-jumped in my life. I had to learn how to flop. I wish I had more practice at it.”

Torres timed 13.2 in the 100 dash, 19.5 in the 110 hurdles, 59.6 in the 400 dash and 5:31.7 in the 1,500 run. His field event marks included 16-7.25 in the long jump, 25-6.25 in the shot put, 4-8.25 in the high jump, 10-1.25 in the pole vault and 102-11 in the javelin throw. His point total was severely affected by a foul in the discus throw.

He also qualified for the Mesa League finals in the 110 hurdles, placing seventh with a time of 17.65.

“I didn’t get it down (in the hurdles) until this season,” he said. “Suddenly, it was like I could three-step now.”

Winners circle
Van won the girls heptathlon by a wide margin — 1,424 points — over runner-up Jasmine Rivera of San Pasqual and nearly doubled the 2,093 points earned by third-place finisher Lauren Bartsch of Coronado.

Van currently holds eight school records at Steele Canyon, including five in individual events: long jump (18-2.5), triple jump (37-6.5), 300 hurdles (44.74), 400 dash (58.50) and 800 run (2:20.99).

She finished fourth in the section finals in the long jump to qualify for this year’s state track finals held June 3-4 in Clovis.

In the last 23 years of the Multi-Event Championship, Van is the only other athlete who has scored more than 4,000 points. The heptathlon record is 4,278 set by Patrick Henry’s Emily Osga in 2009.

Ijah totaled the top marks in eight of the 10 events: 100 dash (11.3), long jump (20-7.25), shot put (40-0), high jump (6-0.5), 400 dash (53.3) 110 hurdles (15.0), discus throw (115-5) and javelin throw (151-11).

The top five place-finishers received trophies. Omahen was second in the decathlon with 5,086 points, improving from last year’s fourth-place finish with 4,013 points.
 “There was some excellent competition at this year’s meet — several athletes turned in PRs,” Barton said.

Up next
The San Diego Pole Vault Club meets every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Grossmont High School. There are also selected pole vault competitions held Friday at San Diego State University, beginning at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. For more information, call Lyle Barton at 201-3811.

An all-comers track meet is scheduled July 6 at Cuyamaca College. Cost is $10 and includes unlimited events. Registration begins at 5 p.m. Contact Patrick Thiss at Patrick.thiss@gcccd.edu for more information.

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