Marblehead High junior boys track star Alex Hersey finished fifth in the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association North Decathlon held over two days on June 5 and 6 in Weston. Hersey accumulated 5,495 points, which is the second most in school history.
The first day featured the 100, shot put, high jump, long jump and 400.
“Going into it, we knew Alex would be average or better than average on the first day with his specialty in the long jump and shot put,” said coach Nolan Raimo.
The first day of competition opened up with the 100-meter dash, and Hersey ended up 31st out of 79 participants with a time of 12.15. He earned 622 points in this event for his efforts.
“Frankly, we expected a sub-11 time, but it was downpouring for 20 minutes before the start of the dash, and Alex, being placed in the 12th and final heat, was ‘iced,’ and as a result came out of the block slower than usual,” said Raimo.
Hersey (34-1) then continued on to the shot put. He finished 15th with 508 points, which was about 3 feet off his personal best of 37 feet.
“Once again, the downpours returned when Alex got into the circle, which weakened his grip on the shot, and the circle was also a bit slippery,” said Raimo. “We projected Alex as a top 10 shot putter in this meet, so landing 15th wasn’t ideal, but Alex remained optimistic to keep scoring points.”
The Marblehead junior went on to the high jump, and he cleared 5-4 before running out of attempts – there was a six-jump maximum – at 5-6.
“With another jump or two, I think Alex would’ve cleared it, but 5-4 matches his personal best,” Raimo said. “It placed him 13th overall in this meet with 488 points. The high jump, especially on limited jumps, is a survive-and-advance event in a decathlon, and Alex matching his personal best was a success for sure.”
The long jump was next up. Hersey entered it with a personal best leap of 20-5.
“It was an event we predicted he would be able to have a sizable advantage compared to the rest of the field,” said Raimo. “We shifted Alex’s runway back two additional steps from 73 feet from the board to 86 feet from the board, and the newfound speed at takeoff propelled him to a 21-foot jump, which is a 7-inch personal best, placing him fifth overall with 675 more points. This jump of his is third all-time in school history.”
Raimo added, “With added momentum from the long jump, Alex cruised in the 400 to a two-second personal best after running a 53.61 to place him ninth with 656 points. We had Alex running a 400 a few weeks ago in a dual meet, and he finished in 55.5 seconds, so a 53.61 was a huge way to cap off the first day of competition.”
Hersey finished Day 1 with 2,949 points, which placed him sixth with still a difficult day ahead.
Day two of a high school decathlon consists of the 110-meter hurdles, discus, javelin, triple jump and the 1,500. In college and beyond, the triple jump is replaced by the pole vault.
The 110-meter hurdles kicked off the second day. Hersey competed at the All-State Meet just two days before the decathlon in this event, where he placed 23rd with a time of 15.80.
He then finished third among the other decathlon hurdle participants with a time of 15.46 to pick up 795 more points. His time places him fourth all-time in school history, just 0.26 off the record.
“The hurdles, unlike the high jump, is an event where you need to score big to place well in the decathlon,” said Raimo. “The advantage of the lower hurdles compared to college and the general scoring table is that you need to capitalize in it, and Alex did just that.”
The next two events – discus and javelin – were two of Alex’s weakest in the decathlon.
“Both events are a perfect balance of strength and technique, but Alex’s limited training in both was a concern going into the decathlon,” said Raimo. “But yet, he threw the discus very well from a standing throw to finish 18th with a throw of 85 feet that resulted in 385 points.
The Marblehead coach added, “This event is tough to score in with the layout of the scoring table, but oftentimes a few points make a big difference in the end.”
Hersey then went on to throw the javelin 96 feet, 5 inches to place 23rd with 287 points. His first two throws were 80 feet and 74 feet, but his third and final throw of 96-5 earned him about 50 points, which secured him a spot in the top five, Raimo explained.
Last but certainly not least was the 1,500, which is the bane of existence for most decathletes, who typically don’t run further than 400 meters during the regular season, according to Raimo.
“Alex ran a quality 1,000 in indoor track with a 3:05 finish, and we were confident he could run a 5:10 1500,” said Raimo. “We set out with a goal of 80-second laps, and Alex held that pace the entire way to finish in a time of 5:00.05, which was remarkable considering this was his 10th event in two days.”
Raimo added, “Alex finished seventh in the entire state that included those who participated in the South decathlon, which is a phenomenal performance for a junior who has significant room for growth in many of those events. He was fifth in the North and will be back next year with his eyes on the top prize.”