It started out as a way to stay active in the lazy summer months, but the decathlon quickly turned into much more than that for John List.
List, a 16-year-old student at Monona Grove High School, is only in his third year with the Madison Area Eastside Sharks track and field club, but he recently booked his place in a second consecutive National USATF Junior Olympic meet.
“Part of it started as a reason for me to get off my butt and be active in the summer, so I wasn’t just sitting around,” List said. “It was a fun way to stay in shape over the summer, but then I realized that it was going to become something a lot bigger than that when I started qualifying for bigger meets.”
Over this past weekend, List was involved in three events – the decathlon, the 110-meter high hurdles and the javelin – at the Regional USATF Junior Olympics in Mankato, Minn. Competing in Region 8, List faced the best 15- and 16-year-old athletes in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Not only did he perform well in all three of his events, but he managed to clinch qualification into the national meet in all three as well.
In the 110-meter hurdles, List finished in fourth place with a time of 17.22 seconds. The javelin competition saw List climb up to second place with a 41.35-meter throw. List matched that feat in the decathlon, as he finished in second place with a score of 5107 points. In the decathlon javelin, List set the new record at the regional meet, breaking his own record from the year before with his throw of 43.54 meters.
Still, for the blossoming track star, what stuck out in his mind most was that he didn’t bring home the gold.
“Well, I didn’t get the gold, which was the way I was hoping it was going to go,” List said reflecting on the trip up north. “But I qualified in all my events and exceeded some of the standards I was trying to meet by quite a bit, so I was happy with that.”
The decathlon competition is one of the more comprehensive events in the track and field world. It consists of 10 events including javelin, hurdles, discus, 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter dash, pole vault and 1,500-meter run.
With that in mind, List’s training regimen is different than most track athletes who might only compete in one or two events.
“The training aspects for it, you kind of have to take it slowly,” he said. “You might practice two or three events a day. You work on slowly focusing on technique, and it’s a progression from there.”
That approach has worked well for List as he has won two consecutive USATF Wisconsin titles for the decathlon in the 15/16 age group. He won with a total of 4290 points in 2015, and improved that score to 5159 in 2016 – a jump of 869 points in just one year.
One thing that List credits for helping him improve across all of his events is the addition of swimming to his training.
List competed on the JV swim team at Monona Grove this winter and said he found a lot of similarities in his approach to both sports.
“I just started doing it this winter for the first time and it was a big help,” List said. “In a lot of ways swimming is just like track. ... You stay in your own lane. You’re competing against yourself. You’re trying to set a new time and beat a standard.”
This summer, he continues to train with the Monona Swim and Dive Club three days a week in the morning as an upper body workout.
Then he trains with the Sharks track and field club at La Follette High School later in the day with his coach, Chuck Koch.
Moving forward, List said next year will go a long way in determining how long his track career continues.
He hopes that what he has accomplished in the USATF circuit will get him looked at for a track and field scholarship in college.
“Junior year for track athletes is big,” List said. “I think I just need to work hard to get my technique, and the times will come with that, that and hopefully keeping good grades will get a lot of colleges looking at me.”
From there, who knows? With local athletes like UW-Madison’s Zach Ziemek clinching a Decathlon spot on Team USA and Columbus High School alumna Heather Miller-Koch snapping up a spot in Rio De Janeiro in the women’s heptathlon, anything is possible for the young athlete.
But first, List is focused on making some waves with the Sharks this summer yet. He will head to the national meet at Sacramento State University starting July 25 with a realistic shot at finishing high in the final standings in some of his events.
While he qualified in three events, it is still up in the air whether he will compete in all three.
“We’re still debating in the hurdles or the javelin just because of the time schedule,” List said. “The decathlon is the first two days of the national meet, and the javelin is the very last day.”
Funding the trip can be expensive, and so the price tag might ultimately be the deciding factor, he said.
While he qualified last year in javelin, List didn’t make the trek down to the national USATF track and field meet. That has him itching to get his chance to see how he stacks up against the competition.
“I think it will be a cool experience there,” he said. “All of the guys I have competed against at these meets, they are all good guys. It’s fun to hang around with them and compete against the best.”
If you want to contribute to List’s trip to the National USATF Junior Olympic Championships, donations can be made at his GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/252tt7dc.