Curtis Beach came full circle Saturday – and he wasn’t just talking about the five trips around the Albuquerque Convention Center track that won him an NCAA Championship.
“It’s kind of crazy,” the Albuquerque native and Duke Blue Devil said after blowing away the field in the 1,000 meters of the NCAA Indoor heptathlon championship – securing his second title in the event – in front of friends and family members.
“I remember running on this track when I was in eighth grade,” Beach said. “Practicing here, being a part of the track club.
“Everyone that was cheering me on today for the national championship, they were all here from the beginning. So it’s all come full circle, and I can’t even comprehend how awesome it is.”
Beach’s performance was fairly awesome in itself. His seven-event total of 6,190 points was a personal record and the third-best heptathlon score in NCAA history.
There’s more where that came from, said University of New Mexico track coach Joe Franklin.
One of Franklin’s first acts on getting the UNM job in 2007 was to ardently recruit Beach, an Albuquerque Academy star and one of the most accomplished high school track and field athletes in New Mexico history.
Of course, Beach never became a Lobo, but Franklin holds no grudges.
“He’s special,” Franklin said. “I don’t know the history as much as others about the great athletes that have come through New Mexico, but he’s got to be in the top two or three.
“He’s a great person, a great student, a great athlete, and he’s represented Duke and Albuquerque very, very well.”
The 23-year-old’s future in multievents, Franklin said, is nearly unlimited.
“I think he’s a little better indoors than what he is outdoors (in the decathlon),” Franklin said. “I can see him being on the world podium indoors at the World Championships without a doubt.
“If he gets his throws down – his javelin, his disc and his shot – he can be a medalist (in the decathlon).”
Beach left no doubt Saturday as to who would win the NCAA gold.
The Duke senior entered the day in third place after Friday’s first four events. He began Saturday with a personal-best time of 7.12 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles, narrowing the lead of Georgia’s Maicel Uibo to 16 points.
Then, in the pole vault – not his strongest event – Beach found himself staring at potential disaster.
Twice, he failed to clear the bar at 15 feet, 7 inches. Almost surely, a few of his competitors would (and did) go higher than 17 feet.
On his third and final try at 15-7, was the title at stake?
“It’s hard not to (think that way),” Beach said afterward. “Ultimately, you want to be able to focus on each event one at a time as it comes. But … it would have made the 1,000 much more nerve-racking had I missed it.”
Miss it, he did not. Beach sailed over the bar on that third try and went on to clear an indoor personal-best 16-6½.
“I just tried to stay as composed as I could and make it happen,” he said.
So, crisis averted.
But was it really a crisis? When all the running, jumping and throwing was done, Beach won the heptathlon by 146 points. Had he missed that third attempt at 15-7, all other times, heights and distances being equal, he still would have won by 24 points.
In the 1,000, as is his habit, Beach simply decimated the field. His time of 2:28.76 was 14 seconds and 158 points better than the second-place finisher.
Uibo finished second overall with 6,044 points, followed by Arkansas’ Kevin Lazas with 5,973.
Still, Beach wasn’t totally satisfied. He’d set a goal of surpassing the No. 2 all-time college mark of 6,208 but fell 18 points short.
He’ll gladly take the personal best and move on.
“I kind of stopped making a goal of winning or a goal of beating other people,” he said, “because I just want to focus on myself and trying to get a personal best.
Ultimately, that frees me up to be the best I possibly can.”