Feature Friday: To (Lindon) Victor, Belongs The Spoils

“It’s not a flash-in-the-pan event. You can’t get a really good start and get out fast. Or you can’t say the wind was really, really good and that’s why he or she got the record. It’s across 10 events. You have to be incredibly consistent. Everything has to fall in place.”
~ 2012 Olympic silver medalist Trey Hardee

Those in attendance at the 90th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays knew Lindon Victor broke the collegiate decathlon record as soon as he crossed the finish line in the 1500 – the 10th and final event of the two-day competition. His time of 4:48.89 added 625 points to his score and pushed his total to 8472, seven more than the former standard set by Trey Hardee in 2006.

Victor and the coaches from Texas A&M – especially head coach Pat Henry – deemed Hardee’s record in danger once the Aggie senior gutted out a dynamic performance in the discus throw a few events earlier. After fouls on his first two attempts, Victor heaved the discus 53.00m (173-11) on his third and final attempt, which sent a roar through Mike A. Myers Stadium.

“We had faith in him – and for him to do what he did with that much pressure on him, it really showed what kind of athlete he is,” Henry said over the phone on Tuesday. “And we put pressure on him by letting him know he needed something big to go after that record. That was a defining moment, not only at the Texas Relays but also in his career.”

Victor centered his focus before that throw by talking with his brother, Kurt Felix – an accomplished decathlete in his own right, who finished 9th out of 25 scorers at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games (Victor was 16th) – and Texas A&M throws coach Juan De La Garza.

“They both set me straight. I needed that,” Victor said five days after setting the record. “I got back in the cage and said, ‘Lord, you didn’t bring me here just to leave me like this.’ I took some deep breaths and it turned out to be the easiest 53 meters I ever threw in my life.”

But guess who knew a big score was in Victor’s future long before the 1500 – and even before the discus left the Grenada native’s right hand? That’s right: Trey Hardee, the former record holder himself, who competed alongside Victor last week. Hardee knows all about the multi, having won silver at the 2012 London Olympic Games as well as capturing a pair of world titles in 2009 and 2011.

“After the shot put (the decathlon’s 3rd event), I knew he was tuned up,” Hardee said the day after his record fell. “Then he hits a lifetime PR in the high jump. I was like, ‘Man, he’s going to destroy my record.’ I was actually texting my agent and he asked how high Lindon could go. I told him he could get 8700 points pretty easily.”

If Victor eclipsed 8700 points, it would have put him among the decathlon elite. As of August 2016, only 18 men in history have scored more than 8700 points (Hardee did so twice as a professional with scores of 8790 and 8725).

Lindon Victor: Actual Versus Potential

See what Texas A&M senior Lindon Victor would have scored if he matched his outdoor PR in each event of the decathlon. Points based on IAAF scoring tables.
Event
100
LJ
SP
HJ
400
110H
DT
PV
JT
1500
Total
Texas Relays
945
903
883
887
898
857
933
702
839
625
8472
Potential PR
952
903
883
887
898
889
966
775
874
656
8683

What separates the elite from the great in the decathlon is the consistent ability to minimize those what-if, subpar efforts and bounce back if they do happen. Victor, the 2016 NCAA decathlon champ, learned that first-hand at the Rio Olympic Games through his own performance and witnessed a legend’s mettle.

“I did so badly in the 100 in Rio and everything went downhill from there,” Victor said. “But I remember watching Ashton Eaton compete and he wasn’t having a good meet, especially in the pole vault. He had two misses at 4.90m and two misses at 5.10m, but went over on his third each time. He battled every step of the way. When I crossed the finish line after the 1500, I knew I had to step my game up mentally and physically.”

Victor proved his resolve twice so far in 2017: Once in the heptathlon at the NCAA indoor meet where he said he kept “grinding and grinding and grinding” on his way to a school record (5976 points) and most recently at the Texas Relays, where strong marks in 5 of the 6 field events masked poor performances in the pole vault and 110 hurdles. The Texas A&M senior set a lifetime pole vault PR of 4.76m (15-7¼) during the heptathlon, but fouled out once the bar hit 4.40m (14-5¼) in Austin and ran the 2nd slowest time of his NCAA DI career in the hurdles (14.94).

“Lindon is so competitive and such a great listener,” Henry said. “When he got here, his vault wasn’t good. His long jump wasn’t good at all. He had a ways to go in the hurdles. But we’re at the point now where he’s getting better and knows what he needs to do better, and when his coaches try to teach him something or tell him something, he’ll try to affect change.”

That’s what makes the decathlon such an enchanting siren. There is so much room for improvement within those 10 events, but perfection is unobtainable.

“I liken it to golf,” Hardee said. “No one in the history of golf has ever had a perfect round where they hit every shot the way they wanted and didn’t leave strokes on the course, like we know we leave points out there. I’m sure if you asked Ashton (Eaton) after he broke his own world record the last time if he wishes he had a few attempts back. I can almost guarantee you he’d say, ‘Yes.’”

Victor set three lifetime PRs during his record pursuit – 400 (48.24), high jump (2.09m/6-10¼), long jump (7.37m/24-2¼) – and became just the 4th man in the past 31 years to hold the collegiate decathlon standard. He took the torch from Hardee, who took it from Tom Pappas in 2006, who took it from Mike Ramos in 1999 (Ramos owned it from 1986 to 1999).

Are Records Meant To Be Broken?

Here is the full list of men who have held the collegiate decathlon record since 1986. You can see the all-time top-10 in the event by clicking here.
Name
Program
Score
Date Set
Date Broken
Lindon Victor
Texas A&M
8472
3/30/2017
Still Active
Trey Hardee
Texas
8465
4/6/2006
3/30/2017
Tom Pappas
Tennessee
8463
3/18/1999
4/6/2006
Mike Ramos
Washington
8315
5/20/1986
3/18/1999

“It’s not a flash-in-the-pan event,” Hardee said of the usual longevity of the record. “You can’t get a really good start and get out fast. Or you can’t say the wind was really, really good and that’s why he or she got the record. It’s across 10 events. You have to be incredibly consistent. Everything has to fall in place.”

The stars aligned for Victor last week – well, mostly.

“I had such a crappy second day,” Victor said with no hint of sarcasm in his voice. “I really don’t think I could have had a worse second day. At least I know I have ways to improve and the coaches to keep pushing me to get better.

“If I settle for the record, then I’m putting limits on myself. I want to score even more the next time, because there are multiple guys in the NCAA right now who could challenge my score right now. We all want each other to do well. I just want to do better.”

And that’s the nature of the multi.

It’s not man versus man. It’s all hands on deck against an untamable beast.

"You’re all fighting the decathlon," Hardee said. "You know that old saying, ‘The rising tide floats all of the ships?’ That’s exactly how it is during a decathlon. As one person does well, you all cheer them on and then you notice you’re doing better and he’s doing better and so on. You want to see someone put up big numbers, because that means you’re likely to do it, too.

"I mentioned to a friend that I’m super happy I got to see it (the record being broken) in person. It would be more bittersweet if I was looking at Internet updates and found out that way. He beat me in the 100, so I literally got to see him every step of the way. He has a bright future."