Annual St. Mark’s meet is an elite decathlon, heptathlon showcase
In 1999, John Turek started hosting an annual decathlon and heptathlon at St. Mark’s to introduce young athletes to the multi-event competitions not often held at the high school level.
More than two decades later, the Texas Greatest Athlete meet has evolved from a developmental clinic into a valuable tuneup for elite international competitors and Olympic hopefuls.
This year’s 20th annual event, held on June 5-6, brought a record 51 athletes in both open and youth divisions.
Within the track and field community, the combined events are very unique.John Turek
Turek, the longtime track and field coach at St. Mark’s, was asked by USA Track and Field officials to expand the meet in 2006, giving top athletes a chance to compete a few weeks before the world championships (typically in odd-numbered years) or the U.S. Olympic trials — both held in late June.
“Every Olympic year, people tend to come out of the woodwork to give it one last shot,” said Turek, a former decathlete himself. “There (are) also people trying to get a score to hit the Olympic qualifying standard.”
This year’s field included Solomon Simmons, who finished eighth in the decathlon at the world championships in 2019 in Doha, Qatar. The California native hopes to be competing this summer at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Ditto for decathlete Scott Filip and heptathlete Ashtin Mahler, who won an NCAA title at the University of Texas in 2019.
The meet has not strayed from its original mission, either, retaining divisions for boys and girls learning the unique nature of the grueling two-day decathlon (10 events for men) and heptathlon (seven events for women).
“Within the track and field community, the combined events are very unique,” Turek said. “The camaraderie among the athletes is unparalleled. It’s not really competing against each other. It’s competing against the score. It’s a whole different mindset.”
Turning heads this year was Louisiana native Ariel Pedigo, the top teenage heptathlete in the country, whose total score broke a 20-year-old meet record.
For the first time in 2021, the meet was renamed in honor of John Green, longtime USATF administrator and Turek’s friend and mentor. Green died in March.
“He was invaluable to USA Track and Field. He never said no,” Turek said. “He oversaw the development of men and women who were just below world-class. He also sat on several committees. He wore a lot of different hats in a lot of different venues. He was a great communicator and great mediator and had tremendous foresight.”
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