Decathlete heads to Nationals

By Bryan Stauffer

You only live once. The widespread phrase, more popularly known as YOLO, has not only become a fad amongst today’s youth pop culture scene, but it has also become a fixation for senior decathlete Connor Birtwhistle and members of the Cal Poly Pomona men’s track and field team.

Birtwhistle is a firm advocate of this lifestyle and helped take it to another level within the Broncos’ track and field community with the help of his teammates.

“We just like to come out here everyday, show up on time, hit it hard and YOLO,” said senior Connor Birtwhistle. “No matter what, through all the injuries and hardships, it’s just about going out there and giving 110 percent.”

The term implies to enjoy one’s life, even if that involves taking risks. That is the mentality it takes to earn a spot at the Division II National Championships, and Birtwhistle would not have it any other way.

“I’m really just trying to keep it loose, have fun and see what happens,” said Birtwhistle.

A transfer student from Cal State Stanislaus, Birtwhistle put together a career year this season with 10 personal bests, finishing 13th nationally in the decathlon to earn his first trip to the National Championships.

His point total of 6,378 at the Northridge Invitational Multi-Events was a career best and helped the Lodi native earn NCAA Division II All-West Region honors for the 2013 season.

A spot on the podium at this year’s Nationals would be huge for Birtwhistle, who has been battling a hamstring strain and some medical issues for the past two months.

“I came in my college career just being a walk-on,” said Birtwhistle. “[I was] nothing spectacular. [I] just worked hard, showed up on time and looked up to my mentors.”

One of his primary mentors over the past two years at CPP has been John Eagleton, the Broncos’ all-time leader in the decathlon who set the program record with 7,140 points in 1988.

Birtwhistle is hoping that his hard work will pay off this weekend with top honors in the decathlon, but he knows it will not be easy.

“I just want to have fun and enjoy the experience,” said Birtwhistle.

Teammate Justin Ellerbee, who will be representing the Broncos in pole vault in Pueblo this weekend, said the biggest thing Birtwhistle is going to have to do is stay consistent throughout all of his events, noting how one minor slip-up can cause a major setback.

Birtwhistle was consistent in his performances this season, and, according to Ellerbee, if there is anyone who has earned the spot to compete at Nationals, it is Birtwhistle.

“He’s put in the work every day at practice, even while injured,” said Ellerbee. He just needs to finish the season strong in Colorado.”

Head coach Octavious Gillespie-Bennett said staying focused and technically sound is going to be the key for Birtwhistle in the decathlon this weekend if he plans on taking home All-American honors.

“I know mentally he’s ready,” said Gillespie-Bennett. “He’s ready to step up to the challenge that he has ahead of him because I don’t think he’s going to be at 100 percent. He’s really going to have to play smart.”

Gillespie-Bennett knows how important it is to get off to a good start in the decathlon with ten events taking place over the course of two days.

“I think if he can work through the first couple events successfully, he’ll do pretty well,” said Gillespie-Bennett.

Birtwhistle will be the first Bronco to compete at this weekend’s Division II National Championships Thursday with the first of his decathlon events beginning at 9:30 a.m. PST in Pueblo, Colo.


Laura Mishima/The Poly Post


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