It’s been Steele Wasik’s dream for a while now to represent his country on the track.
The Medina native got that opportunity Saturday and made the most of it by winning the Pan American Cup junior decathlon championship at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility in Ottawa, Ontario.
Wasik compiled 7,004 points to take the title over Hellerson Pereira Da Costa of Brazil (6,853). He won three events and placed second in a pair of others.
“Winning the Pan American title is a huge honor,” he said. “Having USA across my chest was an incredible feeling and I will continue to chase it.
“I can now look back at my high school career and see that I finished strong and with more goals and hopes for next year.”
Wasik, who will continue his career at UCLA in the fall, overcame the unusual 55-degree conditions, which included periodic spurts of rain over the two-day, 10-event competition, to beat out competition from Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.
Still on tired legs from his previous decathlon at the USATF Championships in Sacramento last month, the recent St. Edward graduate couldn’t have asked for a better start, placing third in the 100 (11.14 seconds), second in the long jump (22 feet, 1 inch), third in the shot put (43-8) and second in the high jump (6-6).
He capped the opening day with an event win, clocking 50.65 to take the 400 dash title over Canada’s Vincent Lanctôt-Reeves (50.80). That gave Wasik the overall lead heading into the final five events.
Wasik kept that momentum going by capturing the 110 hurdles in 14.24, bettering his closest competitor by 0.61 seconds. He clinched the overall crown later in the day by winning the javelin with a toss of 164-2. Wasik also managed to record top-10 finishes in the 1,500 run (5th place, 4:55.48), discus (6th, 117-3) and pole vault (7th, 11-1).
“I knew that only a week and a half after my decathlon in Sacramento that I was not primed for this decathlon,” Wasik said. “Tape and braces were holding me together at this point, but I was finally able to tell myself that this was the last one, so go out with a bang.”
He did. Wasik’s tosses in the discus and shot were personal bests, albeit by mere centimeters, and his high jump and javelin marks proved to be key in capturing the title.
What Wasik will take away from the experience was competing against athletes from across North America and Central America, something he’s looking forward to doing again, as he accepted an invitation to come back next summer.
“The Pan American Cup was unlike any meet I’ve been to,” he said. “I took five years of Spanish in school and I was able to talk to the competitors. Despite the language barrier, we spent two grueling days together and became quite close.
“The meet is starting to get bigger and they invited me back next year to compete in the pro division. It is something that I’d really like to win at some point in my career.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.