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Summer 2006 | Volume 29, Number 3 | Athletics

One for the Record Books

Falcon decathlete becomes two-time national champion

In less than 45 days this spring, Chris Randolph ’06 hammered Seattle Pacific University’s decathlon record — twice. On April 13, 2006, he broke the 36-year-old Falcon high point set by Steven Gough ’70. Then, on May 26, the NCAA Field Athlete of the Year trounced his own record by 260 points and won the decathlon for the second year in a row at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships in Emporia, Kansas.

So when the new graduate from Lone Tree, Colorado, says, “I’m pretty darn average all the way across,” it’s hard not to laugh. Explains Karl Lerum, Seattle Pacific’s head track and field coach, being “average all the way across” in a decathlon is an advantage over a competitor who is stellar in, say, seven events but tanks in three. “Chris and I talk about his finding a state of mind where each event is important, but not as important as the broader goal of completing an entire decathlon,” he explains.

It’s working. A psychology major and two-time academic all-conference selection, Randolph holds Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) records in six of the 10 decathlon events; he also accounts for numerous SPU individual and team records. In 2005, he won the NCAA national championship with 7,309 points. But he wasn’t done — not by a long shot.

In April 2006, at the Mount SAC Relays in Azusa, California, he scored 7,612 points to break Gough’s record of 7,520. “That was a big mark,” says Jack Hoyt, former Seattle Pacific head track and field coach who now coaches at California Polytechnic State University. “It was a historic record and one that many others had tried to break.”

Two weeks later, Randolph also clipped more than a half-second from the 400-meter record set in 1968 by John Glancy ’70, now director of graduate admissions at Seattle Pacific. SPU assistant track and field coach Doris Heritage, two-time Olympian and five-time world cross country champion, saw those records created: first Gough’s and Glancy’s set more than 30 years ago, and then Randolph’s record-book reset in 2006. “If ever anyone beats your record, you want it to be Chris,” she says. “Spiritually, academically, and athletically, Chris is someone we want to represent our school.”

In Emporia for the 2006 national championships, Randolph not only won the decathlon crown for the second time, but also earned the meet’s highest score — 7,872 — in nearly 20 years. Six of his marks were personal records, including three that rate among Seattle Pacific’s all-time top five.

“Chris did an incredible job of executing,” says Lerum. “He had the pop in his legs, and it was fun to sit back and watch. He’s risen to an entirely different level of athlete.”

Randolph began his running career early. Along with his sister, Beth Randolph Langlais ’05, he was raised by a single father. His mother died on his 6th birthday due to complications from a botched surgery. To help his son deal with his mother’s death, Randolph’s father — who ran marathons and half marathons — took him running, using the time to let his son air any frustrations.

“He has always been my hero,” Randolph says of his dad. The first time the son outran the father? “I was a sophomore in high school, bouncing down the road, and I saw my dad slapping his feet down hard on the pavement, huffing and puffing,” he remembers, grinning.

In his senior year in high school, Randolph placed second in Colorado in the high jump, and he was on the second-ranked 400 meter x 400 meter relay team. Without money for college, though, Randolph planned to join the Peace Corps. But his sister, then an SPU freshman, encouraged him to visit campus. He did and was so impressed that he explained his track feats to Coach Hoyt and asked for a scholarship. Hoyt, an Olympic-level decathlete, had limited scholarship money available, but knew it was unusual for an athlete to excel in both the high jump and the 400-meter dash, which take very different athletic skills. After a call to Randolph’s high school track coach, Hoyt offered a modest scholarship “to open the door for him” — if he competed in the decathlon. “What’s the decathlon?” Randolph asked.

Sensing “God’s call” to attend Seattle Pacific, Randolph left Colorado. “When I came out here, I was 6’ tall and weighed 148 pounds,” he remembers. “I was a little cross country guy.” He began training harder than ever before, but the first time he threw a javelin, it did flips in the air. Then he grew two more inches and added 36 pounds of muscle.

“Chris is a tireless worker, and he spent more time training than any athlete I had ever seen in my years with SPU athletics,” says Hoyt.

Randolph’s scores automatically qualified him for the 2006 AT&T U.S.A. Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis in June. In Autumn Quarter, he will take a position as SPU assistant track and field coach, continue training with Lerum and Heritage, and keep his sights on two longtime dreams: the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the 2012 London Games.

— By Hope McPherson
— Photo by Chad Coleman

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