Sports Lounge.eps

When the College of San Mateo revamped its track and field facilities, making the school one of the top attractions on the track and field circuit, the school did so with an eye toward what will be happening the next couple weekends.

CSM will be the focus of the track and field world as the facilities will be used to determine the best female athlete in the nation — and possibly the world — with the first-ever, women’s-only decathlon national championship set for Friday and Saturday.

Events start at 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m. both days. Admission is free.

While decathlon is not a new sport — the men have been competing in the 10-discipline event for decades — it has only been recognized by the governing of world track and field for the last 15 years. It still has not replaced the 7-event heptathlon at the Olympics or world championships.

Pat Daniels Connolly, a Half Moon Bay resident who made the first of three Olympic appearances as a 16-year-old out of Capuchino High School and who will be a special guest at this weekend’s event, has been championing the women’s decathlon for more than half a century. One of the first multi-event stars, Daniels Connolly made her first Olympic team for the 1964 Games in Tokyo and has been fighting for inclusion for the 10-event competition ever since.

All of the hard work from Daniels Connolly, as well as Women’s Decathlon Association co-founders Becca Peter and Dimitry Yakoushkin, has brought most of the top female decathletes to San Mateo. While there have been women decathlon events contested over the years, this will be the first to be a stand-alone competition and not part of a greater track meet.

Last year was the inaugural national championship, held during a meet in Grass Valley, where more than half of the 12-woman field represented Northern California. The field will expand this year and will draw athletes from around the country, including Jordan Gray, who recently wrapped up her college career at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. She earned All-American honors with a seventh-place finish in the heptathlon at the NCAA championships in Austin, Texas earlier this month. Adding her heptathlon score to her discus and pole vault accomplishments, which are the two primary additional events in the decathlon, Gray’s season best is 7,917, while her personal record is 8,313.

The official world record is 8,358 points scored by Lithuania’s Austra Skujyte, set in 2005.

San Francisco 1,500-meter runner AnnaLee McGregor will also be competing at this weekend’s event. She holds the world record in the decathlon 1,500 and ranks No. 7 on the all-time American decathlon points list with a score of 6,110 set in 2014.

The following week, CSM will serve as a headquarters of sorts as the world’s best track and field athletes descend on the Peninsula for the Prefontaine Classic, which be held at Stanford this year. The meet’s traditional venue at Hayward Field at University of Oregon is being renovated this year. The CSM facilities will serve as a training and practice center for the athletes.

One of those world-class athletes is South African runner Caster Semenya, who has been approved to run the 800 at the Pre Classic as she battles track’s governing body over elevated levels of testosterone. While she competes in distances from 400 to 3,000 meters, her signature event is the 800, where she in unbeaten in her last 30 finals since 2015 and is the two-time defending Olympic champion.

Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: nathan@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117.

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