WHEELERSBURG — It’s hard enough for many American teenagers to find time to train for one sport — try training for 10.
A pair of local athletes — Nick Charles of South Webster High School and Zach Jenkins of Wheelersburg High School — do just that, and they’re doing pretty well too.
Charles and Jenkins competed in the USATF Junior Olympics decathlon last week at Eastern Kentucky University. Charles, who competes in the young men 17-18 division, finished third while Jenkins, who competes in 15-16, took the gold.
Both athletes compete in track and field events during the regular high school sports season as well as doing the decathlon in the summer. The decathlon is a two-day event consisting of the 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 meter dash on day one. Day two includes the high hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500 meter run.
Charles, who competed in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 4x400 relay during the high school season, said the decathlon is more challenging.
“It’s a lot harder but in turn it’s a lot more fun because you meet more people and you’re doing more stuff,” Charles said. “You get to experience a lot of different events.”
For Jenkins, an incoming sophomore who competed in the long jump, high jump and 400 last season, this summer was his first competing in the decathlon.
Jenkins said the decathlon, and track and field in general, is a sport that suits his interest.
“It’s kind of weird but I like to run a lot. I like to jump,” Jenkins said. “It’s the perfect sport.”
While the two compete for different schools during the high school year, in decathlon training they work under the same coach.
Glen Queen, a well-known name in area track, has coached track at several county high schools over a 29-year coaching career. He is a 10-year veteran as a competitor in the decathlon and he helps to lead athletes to a sport in which many may not have had a chance to compete.
“It’s mostly word of mouth I guess,” Queen said. “For my part sometimes I will approach a kid I think has potential in the decathlon.”
In Jenkins and Charles, Queen has found a pair with more than just potential.
By winning the Region 5 meet, Jenkins qualified for the national meet, held this year in California. Charles has been close to qualifying the past two years.
Both athletes are on the lower end of their age groups however, and Queen said they will wait until next year to make the trip if they can both qualify. The national meet will be in Kansas next year, a little closer to home.
The concept of patience isn’t something foreign to decathlon participants. The sport requires one to be patient, even while trying for a good score.
“You have to conserve your energy,” Charles said. “You can’t use it all on one event, you have to spread it out.”
Both competitors have set high goals for what they hope to accomplish in the sport.
Jenkins wants to qualify again for nationals. How does he feel about his chances knowing he already qualified once in his first year of competing?
“It does feel pretty good,” he said.
Charles also wants to make it to nationals but he doesn’t want to stop there.
“I would like to go to college and do the decathlon because I find it fun and it’s something I’m good at,” he said.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com.