Curtis Beach does track and field for a living. But long before he turned professional, running and jumping for the Albuquerque Academy Chargers, he did it for fun.
Suddenly last summer — or perhaps it was a gradual thing — it wasn’t fun anymore. Nor, after a ninth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic decathlon trials, was he having the kind of results he craved as a professional.
It was time for a change.
A major one.
Saying goodbye to the multi events (decathlon and indoor heptathlon), Beach plans to compete in individual events in the future. He’s entered only in the 600-meter run at this weekend’s USATF Indoor Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Outdoors this year, his plan is to focus on the 400 intermediate hurdles.
Is this goodbye to the multis forever? He is, after all, a junior national decathlon champion, an NCAA heptathlon champion while at Duke and a fourth-place finisher in the heptathlon at the 2016 Indoor World Championships.
Yes, he said. This is goodbye.
“Right now I have no plans to come back to the multis,” the 26-year-old Albuquerque native said Wednesday in a phone interview. “When I was at the trials, I said, ‘done.’
“Who knows what could happen, but as far as I know right now I’m done with that.”
The ninth-place finish at the Olympic Trials, he said, while disappointing, was not the determining factor.
“I think it was mainly that I wasn’t having as much fun as I did in the past, like in high school and early in college,” he said.
“Over time it was harder to get motivated for (the multis), and I needed a lot of external pressure in order to get excited about it.
“A big meet, or a tough situation like a third-attempt high jump. It was only those situations where I could actually be motivated for it. … Over time, it just started to become less and less fun, and that’s really the reason (for the change).”
Always, in particular at the Academy, versatility has been Beach’s calling card. During his high school career, he won 17 state titles in seven events.
At Duke, three years after his departure, he still holds school records indoors in the 500-meter run and outdoors in the 200 meters, the 400 meters and the long jump — and, of course, in the heptathlon and the decathlon.
Specializing after all those years, he said, will be a challenge.
A new challenge is exactly what he’s looking for.
“The competition is not any easier. If anything it’s a lot harder,” he said. “And I think it’s a little riskier as far as knowing what (event offers) the best chance to make a World Championships team or the Olympic team.
“I think the safe choice would be the multis, but I think pursuing a little bit of the unknown is pretty exciting.”
The USATF, perhaps to create interest among athletes and fans in a post-Olympic year with no indoor world championships scheduled, is staging races at unusual distances at nationals this weekend. There are no 200-, 400- or 800-meter races scheduled, but there are 300-, 600- and 1,000 meter events.
Beach chose the 600, he said, because of a high-quality field that includes Erik Sowinski, the U.S. 600-meter indoor record-holder.
Beach actually considered entering the heptathlon, an event he likely would win on the Convention Center track in front of friends and family.
But no, he said. It’s time to start over.
“I’d be ranked No. 1 (in the heptathlon) going in, and I’d love to go to the meet and win in front of the home crowd,” he said. “But I just wanted to do the 600.
“I think we’re about to see what preparing for something different is going to look like. Hopefully, something good.”
USATF Indoor Championship: Friday-Sunday, Albuquerque Convention Center. Click here for the schedule.