Demands of decathlon no hurdle to Wunderlich

Track and field: The spice of life appeals to North Carroll's Tim Wunderlich, who tastes success in the 10-part event.

Boys Track And Field

High School Sports

March 19, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

North Carroll's Tim Wunderlich loves a little variety.

One of his favorite places to eat on a Sunday morning is a restaurant in Westminster that offers a breakfast buffet. When he's feeling a little musical, he can play the trumpet, the guitar or the piano.

So perhaps it's no coincidence that Wunderlich has fallen for a sport that practically screams diversity: the decathlon.

"I really like doing a lot of stuff," the 16-year-old junior said. "The variety of stuff is good. ... It's a challenge."

The decathlon appears to agree with Wunderlich. After placing eighth in the decathlon at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games two summers ago, he collected the silver medal -- defeating 18 of 19 athletes -- at the same meet in the 15-16 age group last summer.

Although the decathlon is not a competition sponsored by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association at the indoor or outdoor state championships, Wunderlich has kept himself occupied with other events.

During the indoor season this past winter, Wunderlich captured first-place medals in the high jump, shot put and pole vault and a runner-up award in the 55 hurdles at the Carroll County championships.

At the Class 3A-2A West region meet, he won the shot put and placed in the top three in the 55 hurdles, high jump and pole vault to become the only athlete to qualify for four individual events at the state championships.

Wunderlich, who finished second in the pole vault, fourth in the shot put and fifth in the high jump at the state meet, was named the Carroll County Boys Performer of the Year.

"I would love to have Tim on my team," said Mount Hebron coach Mark Reedy. "He's the whole package. He's what every coach looks for in an athlete."

"He's phenomenal," added South Carroll coach Rob Pennington.

Wunderlich didn't get his start in track and field until the eighth grade when he joined a local track club in Hampstead. His first event? The javelin.

"It's unusual," Wunderlich conceded. "One day, there were the javelins out. I just went over and started to learn [throwing] it. I picked it up pretty quickly and went from there."

It wasn't long before Wunderlich became enamored with other events and soon, he was competing in the discus throw, the hurdles, the pole vault, relays, the shot put and the high and long jumps for the Panthers.

"I'd see other people doing it, and I'd think, `You know, it doesn't look that hard.' So I'd just go over and try it," said Wunderlich, who added four inches in height and 15 pounds of muscle to his frame between his sophomore and junior years.

Wunderlich credits his father Gary with channeling his talent to the decathlon. Gary Wunderlich said he had an inkling about his son when at the age of 2, Tim Wunderlich launched himself off the family sofa and landed on his feet without falling.

"I figured [the decathlon] would provide stimulation over time to a lot of different things," the elder Wunderlich said. "He's had to learn a lot of different skills, and it keeps him busy."

Wunderlich and his father drive 90 minutes every Sunday from Hampstead to George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., to spend 3 1/2 hours training with Greg Johnston.

Johnston was an All-America decathlete at Dartmouth in 2000. Johnston, who has been working with Wunderlich since November, said he thinks Wunderlich has the potential to qualify for the NCAA decathlon championships.

"He's really smart. He'll take what I say, absorb it, and do it over and over again until he learns it," Johnston said. "Before, he was doing events just to do them. Now he's doing them to become stronger."

Wunderlich's goal is to take the gold medal at either the AAU Games in Iowa or the USA Track & Field version in Oregon this summer.

"[Getting the silver medal] really inspired me to work harder and get first next time," he said. "In that sense, it's a good motivator."

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