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Thorpe Cup: U.S. women win heptathlon title, German Men claim decathlon victory Phillip Brents | Thu, Sep 01 2011 01:56 PM

The Thorpe Cup began in 1993 and is an international track and field competition between the United States and Germany. The event is staggered over two days, highlighting the 10-event men’s decathlon and seven-event women’s heptathlon. 

The event is named in honor of U.S. Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe, who is regarded as one of the world’s greatest athletes of the modern era, perhaps even the greatest. Thorpe won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, both track and field events, and also played professional football, baseball and basketball.

His Olympic decathlon record of 8,413 points stood for nearly two decades.

The U.S.-German  track and field competition is thus aptly named.

The United States Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista hosted the two countries’ latest annual get-together last weekend, and the estimated 200 spectators on hand for the final events on Sunday were treated to some inspirational as well as record-setting performances.

The U.S. women’s team repeated as Thorpe Cup heptathlon champions while Germany won the men’s decathlon.

Competition was spirited on both sides — as was national pride.

During a post-meet team photo shoot, the German coach wrapped himself in a German flag, uttering “We are the champions.”

Amazing awaits

Veteran track and field observers suggested an Olympic medalist at next summer’s London Games may emerge from last weekend’s field at the Chula Vista OTC.

American Bettie Wade won her second consecutive Thorpe Cup individual heptathlon title by scoring a meet-record 6,052 points in leading the U.S. squad to the 2011 team title. Two of the event’s top three scorers were Americans. Ryann Krais finished third behind Germany’s Claudia Rath with 5,831 points. Rath totaled 5,858 points in second place.

The U.S. entered the final event — the 800-meter run — with a 117-point lead and finished with a 496-point bulge, winning the team points battle 17,611 to 17,115.

“It feels great — the USA is the No. 1 team again,” Wade gushed. “It feels great representing them.”

The American team thanked spectators with a victory “lap” while jogging with the U.S. flag.
It was an electrifying scene worthy of an Olympic-type moment.

London obviously beckons.

Germany’s Simon Hechler, the men’s overall winner with 8,058 points, could be there. By scoring more than 8,000 points at last weekend’s Thorpe Cup, Hechler is expected to be invited to his country’s Olympic Trials.

(American Tom Pappas holds the meet record with 8,569 points scored in 2009.)

The Germans out-scored the Americans 38,870 to 38,000 points, erasing a deficit following a U.S. surge in the pole vault by recording top scores in the  javelin throw (including a pair of prodigious 65-meter plus marks).

Joe Detmer of the U.S. won the meet-concluding 1,500-meter run in 4:18.69, though the Germans secured the team title when Steffan Fricke finished in second place in 4:25.91.

Team USA now leads the decathlon series 13-5 while the women’s series is tied 3-3.

Athletes received points based on their performances in each event. Each team may include up to seven athletes, though only the top five men’s scores and top three women’s scores were tallied for team points. 

Interestingly, each of the seven women’s events featured a different top point-scorer. Team USA had five of the seven top event scorers. Wade took top honors in the high jump (6-0.5) while Krais set the pace in the 800-meter run (2:09.10), Emily Pearson turned in the best time in the 200 dash (24.76), Barbara Nwaba had the top javelin throw (152-11) and Hyeas Fountain posted the top 100 dash clocking (13.12).

Top German event performances included Rath in the long jump (6.24 meters) and Sara Gambetta in the shot put (46-10.75) .

Germany’s Hechler captured top-scoring honors in both the men’s 100 dash (10.62) and long jump (7.67 meters) while teammate Matthias Prey earned top finishes in the shot put (53-1.75) and discus (166-11).

American Miller Moss sped to top times in the 400 dash (48.64) and 110 high hurdles (14.34) while Dan Kinsey emerged on top in the pole vault (16-1.25).

Detmer finished second among individuals with 7,846 points.

Overall, the Germans came out on top in six of the 10 decathlon events. Fricke produced the top high jump mark (6-9.5) while teammate Patrick Spinner hurled the javelin (speerwurf — literally, “spear throw” in German) a distance of 221-1.

Fricke finished third overall in the individual standings with 7,845 points— just one point arrears of Detmer.

While the politically charged 1936 Berlin Olympics have now largely faded into history, modern German athletes define their world by another watershed event in that metropolis: the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Instead of east and west, young Germans now talk about their country in terms of north and south.

“It was much different 20 years ago,” said Fricke, a native of Madgeburg, a city near Berlin located in the former communist German Democratic Republic. “We are from all over Germany, from the north and the south. We come together for two days of intense competition. We are like a family. It’s great.”

Germans train strictly for the Thorpe Cup on an amateur basis, without sponsorship from a national sports federation. Their triumph was one truly of the will, so to speak. “I know this will be great for the sport of athletics (in Germany),” Fricke said.

And it likely won over a few converts among the 14 cross country and track and field athletes from nearby Otay Ranch High School working the event as part of a community service project.

“It’s amazing really,” senior harrier Steven Martinez said. “It’s weird seeing really thin people throwing and then running hurdles in another event.”

The individual skills demanded from the competitors in so many varied events was the measure of their sum totals as all-around athletes.

All 13 men cleared at least 6-1.25 in the high jump, 10 clocked 11.25 seconds or less in the 100 dash, 10 cleared at least 14-5.5 in the pole vault and eight recorded marks of more than 190-10 in the javelin throw.

Marks that obviously would have made Thorpe proud.

•The Thorpe Cup returns to Germany in 2012 while the United States (possibly Chula Vista again) will host it in 2013.

•In a classy ending to the awards ceremony, the men from both countries joined hands and gave a theater-style bow to spectators that elicited much deserved applause.

•Rounding out the top decathlon scorers: Germany’s Prey (fourth, 7,827 points), Americans Nick Adcock (fifth, 7,679 points) and Matthew Johnson (sixth, 7,675 points), Germany’s Maximillian Gilde (seventh, 7,581 points) and Spinner (eighth, 7,559 points) and from the U.S. Mark Jellison (ninth, 7,465 points), Kinsey (10th, 7.341 points), Moss (11th, 7,066 points) and Matthew Clark (12th, 7,054 points) and Germany’s Lars-Niklas Heinke (13th, 6,782 points).

•Rounding out the top heptathlon scorers: Pearson of the U.S. (fourth, 5,728 points), Germany’s Carolin Schaefer (fifth, 5,646 points), Abbie Norton Stechschulte of the U.S. (sixth, 5.615 points), Germany’s Gambetta (seventh, 5,611 points), Nwaba of the U.S. (eighth, 5,545 points),  Germany’s Liane Weber (ninth, 5,484 points) and Stefanie Saumweber (10th, 5,462 points), and from the U.S. Lindsay Lettow (11th, 4,404 points), Sharon Day (12th, 3,426 points) and Fountain (13th, 2,855 points).

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