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To be highly successful in one sport is difficult. To be highly successful in 10 events and still have an opportunity to try out for the Olympics is even harder.
David Grzesiak of Brookfield, a Marquette University High School graduate, had an outstanding track and field career at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
That shouldn't be a surprise because his father, Mark, was a three-year letterman in track for the Badgers from 1973-75, competing in the high jump.
Grzesiak's specialty was the high jump, as he was the 2007 WIAA Division 1 champion for the Hilltoppers. He was a member of the sixth-place 4x400-meter relay at state as a senior and also won conference in the high jump and 4x400-meter relay.
Grzesiak, a talented all-around athlete, also lettered in basketball and football. He was a three-time all-conference selection in football, and he was a team captain in football and basketball.
He was even selected to compete in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association high school football all-star game.
After graduation, Grzesiak was recruited by Wisconsin coach Ed Nuttycombe, one of the most successful track coaches around, to take part in the decathlon.
"Initially I was already proficient across the board in the high jump, long jump and pole vault," Grzesiak said. "The decathlon is a great category."
So what does a coach look for in a decathlon athlete?
"No. 1, they look for someone to be coachable and have the ability to learn," Grzesiak said. "Usually athletes are good in a few events and then coaches have to build on it.
"What's interesting about decathlon athletes is they come in all shapes and sizes. I'm 6-foot-4 inches, 190 pounds, but guys that are 5-10, 160 are just as good. That's what's exciting about it."
Up for the challenge
When asked why he chose the decathlon, Grzesiak was quick to answer.
"I wanted to do it because of the challenge," he said. "In other events, it's one and done and then you wait another week.
"But with the decathlon, you build off it, trying to get momentum from one event to the next. It's hard to master 10 events."
Grzesiak then talked about the psychological part of the event.
"Whether you do well or poorly, you need to put it behind you," he said. "We joke about it, but the mental part of the event is important. You need to move on."
This wasn't something that came easy for Grzesiak.
"Over time you make adjustments, but sometimes you think too much," he said. "You can't focus too much on one event. You have to focus on what you are supposed to do. For some guys, it takes three years to get it right."
Grzesiak is third all-time at UW in the decathlon with 7,832 points. He was a 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships qualifier and a 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships Preliminary Round qualifier in the high jump.
Grzesiak finished third, but still set a Big Ten record (7,832 points) at the Big Ten Championships in May, which placed him among the top 18 US decathletes over the past two seasons.
Falls short at trials
Grzesiak came just short of the Olympic trials 'A' standard of 7,900 points with his performance, but he secured himself a spot in the trials in Eugene, Ore., on June 21 to 22.
Unfortunately, he finished 13th overall out of 19 athletes and didn't qualify for the Olympics.
"It was the most awful meet of my career," Grzesiak said. "In order to do your best, you need at least three to four weeks to recover. That didn't happen. This was my fourth decathlon of the year."
Grzesiak will take some time off with his sister, take a trip and enjoy his summer, giving his body a chance to heal.
He majored in Agricultural Business Management and he begins his career in Chicago with Priority Coyote Logistics in late September.
Is his decathlon career over?
"If I'm still in shape," he said, "I might compete in one or two a year and have some fun with it."
Throwing key for advancement
Grzesiak said perfecting his throws could be key to taking another step forward.
"The elite athletes don't have weaknesses," he said. "Second-tier guys like us - we struggle with the discus and javelins. But then we do well in the high jump and pole vault to offset that.
"The fun part is the ups and downs of each individual. You can go from first to fourth to second. There is so much movement after every single event."
Because the decathlon is a two-day event, the decathlon athletes spend more time together.
"There is like a decathlon brotherhood," Grzesiak said. "We're together for five hours a day. We become friends."
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