Over the weekend, fifth-year Harrison Williams claimed the No. 1 spot in the nation in the heptathlon at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Nebraska. The veteran multi-event athlete scored 5,961 points, coming up just nine points short of his school record (5,970) set two years ago.
“I really wanted to break 6,000,” Williams said. “I fell a little short, but it was still a great meet.”
Of the seven events that make up the heptathlon, Williams won three of them, outscoring the competition by nearly 300 points. Nebraska’s Jared Seay finished second in the final standings with 5687 points.
The two-day competition began on Friday with the 60-meter dash for Williams (6.95) who racked up 900 points en route to a first place finish in the sprint. Given the particularly small size of the meet, each event of the heptathlon was separated by roughly 30 minutes, an NCAA minimum standard. In larger meets that are packed with more events and thus more likely to run behind schedule, such as the NCAA Championships, multi-event athletes are usually given a longer rest period. This wasn’t necessarily the case for Williams this past weekend.
The 60-meter dash was shortly followed by the long jump, which saw Williams finish third after clearing 7.14 meters. The fifth-year picked up 847 points in a performance he said could be improved upon.
“I know long jump could have gone a lot better,” Williams said. “I was jumping really far from behind the board, so I was losing a little distance there.”
Williams added 701 points to his total after throwing the shot 13.55 meters. Unlike other events, points in the heptathlon are not determined by your relative performance to other competitors, but rather by how well you perform at a certain event.
In his junior indoor season in 2017, Williams scored 5,970 at the NCAA Championships for sixth place. His point total, which remains a school record, marks the highest sixth place score in NCAA heptathlon history. Williams’ performance this past weekend was the first time he competed in the heptathlon since that record-setting performance. However, the fifth-year competed in the decathlon, the outdoor version of the event, four times last year, including a first place finish in the decathlon at the Pac-12 Championships.
Williams concluded day one of competition with the high jump. He scored 749 points after clearing 1.94-meters in a performance multi-events coach Michael Eskind said is “not quite where we want it to be.”
Williams sat in second to Seay after day one of competition. The following morning started early with the 60-meter hurdles at 9:30 a.m. CT. Williams scored 947 points in a second place performance.
Still sitting in second place, he transitioned to the pole vault, the sixth of seven events in the heptathlon. Williams said he usually separates himself from the field in the pole vault and tends to do better in that event. His vaulting skills were certainly on display on Saturday as the 6-foot-4 fifth-year cleared 5.22 meters for 979 points. No other athlete was able to clear above 4.82 meters. His performance vaulted him into first place by 300 points.
In the 1,000 meters, the final event of the heptathlon, Williams aimed at running his personal best (2:38.45) to give himself enough points to break his goal of 6,000 points. However, the fatigue of the previous six events settled in as Williams crossed in 2:43.19 for 838 points.
“I was getting really tired,” said Williams. “I took around 20 jumps [in the pole vault], including warm-up jumps, and that really took a lot out of me when I got to the 1,000.”
The first 200 meters of the race was the slowest lap for Williams. Despite scoring just under his personal best, Williams is excited to improve upon his performance.
“I’m most excited about all the points I left out there that I didn’t score,” he said.
“The first thing he told me afterwards is that he thinks he can do a lot better, and that’s the exciting part,” head coach Chris Miltenberg said. “It’s awesome when you have a guy at that high of a level who still thinks that way.”
With the top spot in the country, Williams has solidified himself as a top contender for the NCAA title in the event. Only the top 16 athletes in the country are granted a ticket to the championships. With his performance over the weekend, he will surely be one of 16 athletes competing for the title come March 8 in Birmingham, Alabama.
The next time Williams competes in the heptathlon, he’ll be vying for a national title. Until then, he’ll have some time to train ahead of the MPSF Championships on Feb. 22-23, when he’ll likely compete in a few events, but not all seven.
“We definitely have some good room for improvement in the long jump, high jump and shot,” Eskind said. “That’s going to be a big point of focus over the next few weeks as we get ready for NCAAs.”
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.