Ashland High’s Ian Rinefort qualifies for nationals in first-ever decathlon event

ASHLAND — Ian Rinefort has set the bar awfully high to start his decathlon career.
Not just because of the aspirations he has.
But also because of what he accomplished in his first-ever meet as a decathlete.
You see, two weeks ago at the at the Summit Decathlon in Bend, Rinefort, a senior at Ashland High School, did quite well for somebody who had never previously competed in the event. Maybe more than quite well, even, when you consider that just two days before the event started up, he was diagnosed with Mononucleosis.
Rinefort, who was dealing with exhaustion and an inflamed spleen, finished with a final score of 5,991.
Score needed to qualify for the New Balance Nationals in North Carolina in the middle of June: 5,800.
“I went into the meet not expecting much because it was my first time doing most of these events,” Rinefort said. “It was definitely an experience. It was a weird meet because most high school stuff, you’re only allowed to do four events, but there it was five events one day and then the other five the next. My favorite parts were being able to compete with the other guys and get that bond with them and trying to get the score you want rather than competing against them.”
Rinefort finished in second at the Summit Decathlon to Marist senior Pierce LaCoste, who will be running at the University of Oregon this time next year.
And even though Rinefort came up just shy of his goal of finishing with a score of 6,000 in the decathlon that late-March weekend, he’s still proud of what he was able to do, all things considered.
“The first day, I was kind of unsure and I didn’t think I was even going to place. After the first day and I saw I was seeded second behind him, I was definitely surprised and motived to try and catch (LaCoste),” Rinefort said. “When I calculated the score I thought I would get (going into the meet), it was about 300 less than what I actually ended up getting.”
So how did this all come about?
At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Rinefort is built more like a runner than anything else.
Rinefort, who has qualified for the OSAA Class 5A state meet each of his three years at Ashland High, was a middle distance runner prior to this season, concentrating on the 400 and the 4x400 relay, the latter being an event the Grizzlies placed third in the state in last season.
But his decision to try the decathlon — which was made all of about a month before the Summit Decathlon — was relatively simple.
Two former Ashland High decathletes, Jeremiah Sherrynewby and Wyatt Thompson-Siporen, proved to be the ones who served as both foundation layers and inspiration for an attempt at the decathlon.
A talk with his father, Justin, was the clincher.
“It was just like, ‘If you want to do it, then do it,’” Rinefort said, “so I decided to do it.”
Since decision day, Rinefort tried to familiarize himself with all 10 events as much as he can.
During high school track meets, he takes part in the maximum four events for both the fun of it an, as he admits, “Meets are long and if I can spread out my events, it will be less boring.”
He has done some distance running in the 1,500 on top of his favorite event, the 400, one he finished in fifth at last year’s state meet. He’s also competed in the pole vault since his freshman year at Ashland, while dabbling in the long jump in middle school.
But there were some of the other events — most notably the throwing ones — the are a part of the decathlon that he hadn’t really even attempted before.
Enter Lili Smith, Rinefort’s classmate who finished sixth in the state in the shot put as a junior last year.
“I’m super lucky to have state-level throwers at my school,” Rinefort said. “(Smith) really knows her shot put and discuss and gave me some very helpful pointers there. With the other stuff, I consider myself pretty athletic so I was able to pick it up fairly quickly.”
Rinefort hasn’t competed in a track meet since the final his trip to Bend on the final weekend of March due to his Mononucleosis-related symptoms.
The hope is that he is able to regain his strength and stamina so that he can qualify for his fourth state meet in as many years.
No matter what, though, there’s the possibility of a family trip to North Carolina in mid-June — which is a pretty good thing to have out there.
“I’d love to go,” Rinefort said. “The decathlon was my favorite track meet I’ve ever been to because of the atmosphere and the guys I was with there. I’ve got nowhere to go but up because this was my first time doing it.”
Rinefort plans to attend Western Washington University in the fall. While middle distance running is in his future at the NCAA Division II level with the Vikings, the same can now be said about the decathlon.
Pretty easy to understand why, too.
“I would love to do the decathlon at the college level,” Rinefort said, “and I think with the score I got, that is something you can compete with at the college level.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.

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