PLAINVIEW - No one ever told Stephen Moore the decathlon would be easy. Let's face it, how many people would consider spending two days competing in 10 grueling track and field events entertaining?
Moore didn't. In fact, as a freshman at Abilene Christian University he decided the decathlon wasn't for him after fewer than two months of training.
"I didn't really like it," he said while sitting at his desk in a small office behind the stands at Wayland Baptist University's Hutcherson Activity Center. "It was way more time-demanding than what I felt like I wanted to put into it."
Moore, now a world-class decathlete, competed in his third Grand Prix event in France last September, finishing 10 th overall. The Grand Prix is a combination of decathlons in which each participant must compete in at least three meets. The three scores are added to determine the winner. While he finished 10 th overall, Moore was the second highest American finisher.
He has come a long way from that little freshman that didn't want to work too hard at the event. His turnaround was nearly immediate; thanks to his coach and mentor Chris Beene. With the encouragement of his coach, Moore went back to the decathlon as a sophomore, trained a full season and won the NCAA Division II national championship in 1996.
"He was the first national champion I ever coached," said Beene, who is in his first year as head track and field coach at Wayland.
Beene was an assistant coach at ACU under Wes Kittley who now heads the track program at Texas Tech University. Beene followed Kittley to Tech before taking the head job at Wayland. Upon accepting the WBU position, Beene knew exactly whom he wanted as his assistant.
"He told me before he had the job that he was one of the two finalists and if he got the job he was going to ask me to be his assistant," Moore said. "As soon as he got the job, he contacted me again and he officially offered me the assistant position."
Moore quickly signed on, choosing Wayland over any position he could have had with an NCAA school for one simple reason: "In the NAIA, I have the opportunity to work out with my athletes," he said.
The NCAA forbids world-class athletes to serve as coaches at its member schools, giving certain schools an unfair advantage in the recruiting game. Beene said, however, with Moore on the Wayland staff it gives the program that has previously produced five NAIA national indoor team titles and one NAIA national outdoor team title some additional credibility.
"It helps bring some validity to the recruiting process," Beene said. "Most kids have stars in their eyes of Division I, and they think that they have to go to that level to get good coaching and to really reach the potential they want to reach.
"My coach here is training for the 2004 Olympics. It shows where the program is going. (Athletes) realize the training they are going to get here is scientific and something that is going to help them get where they want to go."
Moore, 27, has continued to train and compete over the years and is currently training for the 2004 Olympics, which will be held in Athens. He has been ranked in the top 10 nationally since 1999. Currently, Moore is ranked fifth in the U.S. and 22 nd in the world. He has been ranked as high as No. 4 nationally.
Since winning the national championship as a college sophomore, however, Moore has had a run of bad luck. In his junior year of competition, Moore qualified for the national meet, but tore his hamstring in the 100-meter run and couldn't complete the 10 events. The decathlon is spread over two days with athletes competing in the 100-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400-meter run on the first day, and the 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter run on the second day.
As a senior in 1999, Moore qualified for the national meet in the long jump, high jump and decathlon, winning the long jump with a distance of 24 feet, 8 inches. He also set the national record for a first-day total in the decathlon.
"I was pretty much on the way to breaking the Division II national record and in the 1,500-meters (metric mile) I had an asthma attack," Moore said.
When the trainer set foot on the track to administer aid, Moore was disqualified from the event. Still, he finished second overall, only four points out of first place.
"I was 6-or-700 points ahead of second place going into the last event, which was humongous," said Moore, whose personal best in the decathlon is 8,043 points.
"The 8,000-point mark in the decathlon is kind of a world class mark," Moore said. "If you can score over 8,000 points then you are really considered kind of elite."
Moore's run of bad luck continued in the 2000 Olympic trials when he no-heighted in the pole vault. The top three finishers at the Olympic trials make the Olympic team and Moore had all but sewn up third place.
"At that point, I was almost 300 points ahead of fourth place, which pretty much guaranteed me a slot on the team as long as I cleared the bar in the pole vault, got a legal throw in the javelin and finished the 1,500 meters," Moore said.
Moore cleared the bar on his first attempt, but on the way down he bumped it with his arm, knocking it off. Moore failed to clear the bar on his next two attempts. Beene, who coached him at the Olympic trials, said Moore's footwork was off just enough to keep him from completing the vaults correctly. Standing in the coaches' box, however, Beene wasn't in a position to give his protégé any coaching tips prior to his final vault.
"At that point, I was pretty much done," Moore said.
But the small (5-foot-10), mild-mannered Moore is far from finished. Not only is he still competing, he is passing on what he has learned to a younger group of track and field athletes. Coach Beene said Moore is a benefit to the Wayland track program, not only in his coaching, but also in setting an example.
"He is training a little bit, so they see his work ethic," Beene said. "They see the drills that he is doing and they have an idea how to do them right. He is a very mild-tempered person. He has a lot of patience, and I think they respect that."
Beene also knows the athletes are getting quality instruction.
"I can pretty much turn them over to him and know that he has been in my system and he knows what we are doing," Beene said.
As an elite athlete, Moore also participates in various camps and clinics around the country and brings back the latest training tips and techniques to better prepare Wayland's athletes for what they are going to face.
"At this point, I am probably pushing them more than they are pushing me," Moore said of training with the youngsters. "I hope to get some of them developed. I think some of the freshmen have the potential, by the time they get to be seniors, to push me a little bit."
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