Williams closes in on Stanford's most revered track and field record


Stanford's oldest track and field record also is its' most legendary -- Bob Mathias gold-medal winning decathlon at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

On Thursday, 63 years later, Mathias' record was threatened by a freshman making his collegiate track and field debut.

Harrison Williams scored 7,518 points to finish second at the Texas Relays behind Stanford volunteer assistant coach Evan Weinstock, who scored a personal-record 7,557 points.

Williams finished only 74 points behind Mathias' recognized school mark of 7,592. Mathias, Stanford class of '53, scored a world-record 7,887 points to win his second consecutive Olympic decathlon gold. But using today's scoring system, his 1952 total now is worth 7,592.

On the final lap of the 1,500 meters, marking the conclusion of the 10-event competition, Stanford multis coach Michael Eskind encouraged Williams that the record was within reach. Williams ran 4:36.83, a personal record by more than four seconds though it wasn't quite enough.

"That's something we talked about even as far back as the recruiting process," Eskind said. "That's the oldest record and maybe the most meaningful record, because it was achieved to win an Olympic gold medal. There couldn't be a cooler record to try to break."

The top 24 in the nation earn passage to the NCAA Championships (June 10-13 in Eugene, Ore.) and Eskind and Williams are confident his score will be enough.

Williams' next decathlon is expected to be at the Pac-12 Championships (May 9-10 at UCLA), but there's a chance he could bypass that decathlon and focus on individual events, such as the 110 high hurdles and pole vault.

"Overall, it was a pretty solid meet for me," Williams said. "My main goal coming in was just to get a score that would qualify me for NCAA's, so I'm pretty happy with that. But I definitely left a lot of points out there."

Williams, of Memphis, Tennessee, broke the U.S. high school record last year while also placing sixth at the IAAF World Junior Championships with 7,760 points. However, this was his first decathlon with collegiate-weight throwing implements and higher hurdles.

Williams is now the No. 7 performer on the U.S. all-time junior list and breaks the Stanford freshman record of 7,007 set by Jason Goff in 2000. Williams also moves into Stanford's top 10 decathlon list at No. 3, trailing Mathias and Jay Thorson (7,529 in 1986).

The meet was not without its difficulties for Williams. On Tuesday night, and with the decathlon beginning the next morning, he couldn't sleep because of stomach problems.

"I honestly didn't think I'd be able to compete," he said.

He struggled with the throws – the shot put on Wednesday and the discus on Thursday. His self-described "terrible" discus performance of 103-1 and earned only 492 points, dropping him to fourth with three events left.

He followed with a pole vault of 16-4 3/4, the second-highest of the competition, and 910 points, tying his personal best 400 from Wednesday as his highest-scoring events of the competition.

In the javelin, Williams had a poor first throw and fouled on his second. With one left, Williams got some tips from Stanford throwing coach Michelle Eisenreich and uncorked a "safe" throw of 156-1 -- a 40-foot improvement.

"He prides himself on getting the job done on those third attempts," Eskind said.

And finished with his best-ever 1,500 – the second-fastest of the day.

"It was a good step," Eskind said. "We'll try to shore up the weaknesses and sharpen the strengths. We knew he would have a shot at breaking the school record. We just didn't realize it would be this soon."

Three other Stanford athletes competed Thursday. Lena Giger was 14th in the women's hammer with a best of 175-0. She was the second freshmen in the competition, behind only LSU's Sidnie Wilder at 180-8. Her series was consistent, but was not enough to get her to the finals and earn three more throws.

In Section B of the men's pole vault, Garrett Starkey was fifth in his group at 16-6 ¾ and Dalton Duvio was 11th at 16-0 ¾. Both opened at 16-0 ¾ and cleared on their first tries. The heights increased by six inches at a time. Starkey reached 16-6 ¾ on his second try.

Men's golf

Stanford opened its home tournament Thursday and got through the first 18 holes of competition in fifth place. The opening round of The Goodwin saw TCU go off with a 16-under 264 to lead the 24-team field at Stanford Golf Course, with three players posting a 5-under 65.

Stanford is 12 shots back at 4-under.

UNLV's John Oda recorded the day's best round with a 6-under 64. Oda is one shot ahead of a six-player pack tied for second at 5-under.

"The guys got off to a solid start, and definitely left a few shots out there," Cardinal coach Conrad Ray said. "We battled a few big numbers and made a couple of easy mistakes that kept us from being around the lead. I'm confident that the guys will be ready to shoot low tomorrow and work their way back into contention."

Maverick McNealy had six birdies and an eagle, but added a bogey and quadruple-bogey during his round of 67. McNealy eagled the par-5 seventh and hit two out of bounds off the 13th tee.

McNealy is tied for 11th along with David Boote, whose 67 came with five birdies and a pair of bogeys.

Viraat Badhwar was 1-over at 71, as was teammate Patrick Grimes. Franklin Huang carded a 4-over 74.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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3 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:15 pm

This is so fantastic! with all the other Stanford sports being recognized for their success, and rightfully so, it is so exciting for me as a former high-jumper to see excellence in Stanford track and field brought to the limelight. Kudos to this fine young man and continued success in his career! Go Stanford; the greatest academic and sports university in the world.

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