As a child growing up, Gunnar Nixon dreamed of being the fastest or strongest man on the planet. Despite the high aspirations he had for his athletic career, he never imagined that he would become a star decathlete. In fact, the Santa Fe High School senior didn’t even know what the multi-events were until his freshman year in high school.
“I had been to the Junior Olympics in eighth grade, and I was just doing open events,” Nixon said “I saw the decathlon, and I was kind of like, ‘Oh, I want to try that.’ Next year, when I was an intermediate, I tried it and won... Now I’m hooked on it.”
Nixon found his niche in the sport of the grueling two-day decathlon. His speed and strength are evident in his versatility in all ten events, and he has quickly risen to the ranks of the elite in the event. At the Great Southwest Classic this past weekend, he broke Curtis Beach’s national high school record, set in 2009, and became the first high school athlete to ever surpass the 8,000-point mark.
Nixon set the tone on day one by matching or setting personal bests in the 100m (10.89), long jump (7.45m/24-5.5), shot put (15.21m/49-11) and high jump (2.15m/7-0.5). On day two, he used his momentum from the first day on his way to carry him to a new pole vault personal record (4.55m/14-11), besting his previous PR twice, on his way to a final score of 8,035.
“I’ve really been putting my focus on the pole vault and the throws, and it’s been showing,” Nixon said. “I’ve really been improving.”
Nixon’s latest record came only two months after he set the high school record for the decathlon using international implements at the Arcadia Invitational, which earned him USATF Athlete of the Week honors.
For Nixon, the decathlon presents a challenge that cannot be matched by other events, and he enjoys the difficult task of remaining focused throughout two long days of competition.
“You get to push yourself in different areas, not just running or jumping,” Nixon said. “It pushes the body and the mind. You really need to stay focused on what’s going on and try not to think about the points.”
“Last year at Arcadia, I had two fouls in the shot. I just had to get one throw in just to stay in the competition, so I was really, really mad at that point. But the next event was high jump and I came back and had a decathlon PR in that. You’ve just got to put that event behind you, and do better in the next one.”
Nixon will compete later this month in the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships for a chance to represent the U.S. in the Pan Am Junior Championship in Miramar, Fla. later this summer.
Although the future Arkansas Razorback may have moved on from his dreams of being the fastest or strongest, he has set his sights on a new goal.
“I want to go to the Olympics and win.”