For SOU's Waroff, it takes 10, baby

Jump coach Danny Cecchini stands nearby as Alex Waroff takes a running start for the long jump, leaps from the springboard and lands in the sand pit. Rather than standing right up, he looks at Cecchini with a grin, just waiting for a response from his coach.

"Did you see that?" Waroff said, laughing as he stands back up to run it again.

"I saw it," Cecchini said.

A few minutes ago he was running speed work outs with the sprinters and in a few more, he could be hurling a javelin, discus or shot put, working on speed techniques with sprinters or checking in with his pole vault coach. Wherever he is, he makes the rounds with most of the track coaches on any given day at practice. He has to if he's going to train for 10 different events.

Although Waroff mainly focused on basketball and baseball in high school, the Rogue River native was a fairly good sprinter, a pretty good jumper and had some pole vault experience when he came to Southern Oregon University. He just wasn't where he needed to be in any event, he says. That's when Waroff decided to try all kinds of events. He never imagined that two years later he would rank fifth in the nation in overall points, or that he would be shooting for All-American status at the NAIA National Championships meet May 27-29 in Marion, Ind.

He just thought it would be fun. Apparently, he's been having a lot of fun.

The junior multi-athlete scored a personal-record 6,390 points in the SOU spring mult-event championships March 23, edging College of the Siskiyou's Stephen Dickinson (6,233). The mark secured for Waroff his second straight trip to nationals.

Being a multi-athlete requires hard work and dedication. The decathlon is a strenuous two-day event which begins with the 100-meter dash, then moves on to the long jump, shot put, high jump and the 400. After that, Waroff competes in the 110 hurdles, the discus, pole vault, javelin and finishes with the 1,500.

No, the decathlon is not for the faint of heart or mind, as the mental aspect of the events can be just as taxing on the mind as physical strain is on the body.

Waroff has about 30 minutes between events to adjust his mind-set and warm up for the next event. This transition is crucial, and Waroff admits that he still struggles to "switch gears," something that can easily determine the outcome of a multi-event.

For instance, he says, if you lay an egg in the long jump, you better get over it quick because pretty soon, it's on to the shot put.

"So you have to get that completely out of your mind and focus on what you're doing at that time and not live in the past," he said.

His coaches are always encouraging him to break down his events into small steps, because it's the small things that matter.

"As far as the decathlon, a couple inches can mean the difference between being an All-American and coming home with nothing," said Cecchini, a former SOU All-American.

"He's got a lot of heart. He has trouble taking a day off the track, so his dedication level is what's made him the athlete that he is today."

Waroff is no stranger to long hours at the track, followed by time spent with weights and in the training room. He and teammate Rosie Converse, who trains for heptathlon, once spent nearly six hours training at the track for various events. The two are the only multi-event athletes on the team and have a bond unique in track and field.

Between events in practice, Waroff encourages the distance runners in their workout and the sprinters who pass by.

"If he's not doing an event, he's cheering on the rest of his team," Converse said. "He's a fun guy to train with, he keeps things entertaining."

The opportunity to work with athletes and coaches from all of the different areas of track and field is one of the biggest reasons he doesn't regret choosing one area of focus.

Despite all of the hard work, the best feeling he gets from training and performing a decathlon is "just after you finish that 1,500 and it's over, and you just say to yourself, I just did a decathlon," he said.

Whether he shines or tanks, Waroff relishes the feeling of coming in with a group of guys and coming out with them. For Waroff, that makes a decathlon an accomplishment for him every time.

And the same goes for his practice workouts and work ethic.

Even after a tiring day working on jumps, sprinting and other events, javelin coach Nick Bakke, says that Waroff is always fun to have at practice. "He likes to joke around and have a good time, but he brings it, he competes."

"There's the athletic component to becoming an All-American, but there's that personality aspect," Cecchini said. "He has got more drive than a lot of athletes I've seen."

Despite his versatile athleticism, listening to Waroff describe the pole vault - all smiles as he speaks - one would think it was his only sport instead of just his favorite. It is enough to handle by itself.

Throwing your head back, going upside down, and looking at the ground as you're shooting yourself over a pole bar is not really a natural or easy thing to do.

Then again, neither is competing in 10 events in two days.

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