Churubusco senior Sam Wood says he doesn't remember exactly when the decathlon and Ashton Eaton, the two-time Olympic gold winner in the discipline, first captured his imagination.
“I think it was just me sitting at home one day on YouTube, and it came up, and I just kept watching; I fell in love,” Wood said of the event, whose winner is traditionally dubbed “The World's Greatest Athlete.” “I liked the fact that it's everything, it's everything in one. It's a mix of running, long distance, all the throws, all the jumps.”
Wood, who has committed to Indiana with the intention of competing in the decathlon, would seem to be a strong candidate for the discipline, even though it's not a typical high school event and he hasn't had the chance to enter one.
He was the runner-up in the pole vault and took 10th in the long jump at the 2019 state finals He took third in the 300 hurdles at the North Side Sectional last season. He even played quarterback for the Busco football team as a senior.
“Even in football, we had such a small amount of guys, that you had to play both ways,” Wood said. “Definitely in track, every guy has to run four events, basically. Everyone is doing everything, and you have to be well-rounded to succeed.”
Churubusco track coach Zach Dock said Wood has competed in 10 of the 13 individual events at some point in his high school career, skipping only the 800, mile and 2-mile.
“He's extremely athletic, he watches a lot of film, he's got endurance, he's got plenty of speed,” Dock said. “He's very, very strong for a skinny kid. He can power-clean 275 (pounds), and that's a lot of explosive power. And I think that's a big draw.”
Dock knew that Wood hoped to pattern himself after Eaton, and encouraged him to get comfortable with as many events as possible.
“When he came out as a junior and did the shot put, he was instantly good,” Dock said. “And then he goes over to the discus ring and threw several very, very solid discs. If we could put him in eight events every day, we'd win a lot more track meets.”
Even though he seemed to pick up the throws quickly, Wood said one of the events he's most concerned about once he reaches is the javelin, the one decathlon event that isn't contested at Indiana high schools.
“I'm kind of worried about the javelin – I've never even touched the javelin before. And the 1,500, that one might be a little rough at first,” Wood said. “I think the hardest thing might be getting the muscle memory down for each event. Each event is so technical on its own, and doing them all together, it's going to be hard to catch on fast, but I'm looking forward to it.”
Wood and Churubusco had some big goals for the 2020 season: winning a state title in the pole vault, placing in the long jump and qualifying for the finals in a third event all seemed like reasonable marks to aim for. But despite the disappointment of a canceled senior season, Wood will have plenty of opportunities to make more memories at Indiana's Haugh Track & Field complex, the site of the state championship in recent seasons.
“They were the only ones to come to my home for a visit,” Wood said of the Hoosiers. “Their coach came up and visited my family, and I felt like that showed a lot. They kept the most in contact with me. It seemed like they wanted me the most, so I definitely had to choose them.”
Dock said he and Wood's parents thought it was important that Sam, who has been very comfortable in his small-town surroundings, have the right coaching staff around him when he's thrown into elite collegiate competition.
“It wasn't just about how high he could vault or how fast he could run or how far he could throw,” Dock said. “It's the relationships that they built with him that really sold him on the program.
“He's one of the kids you're really happy with when they're in your program, and really upset when they leave, because they mean a lot to your program.”