Clay part of USA's 1-2 world punch
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Special to The Advertiser
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Andrew Valmon, head coach of the USA men's team bound for next week's IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships, knows he has "a solid squad of athletes, some great veterans and some great young talents."
But nowhere is it more "loaded" than the heptathlon.
Valmon's two-man American team consists of the reigning Olympic decathlon champion, Bryan Clay of Hawai'i, and the reigning world outdoor decathlon champion, Trey Hardee of Texas.
Clay, the established force, celebrates his 30th birthday today. Hardee, the rising star, turned 26 Feb. 7.
"Yes, you can expect us to do pretty well in the event," Valmon said, smiling, at the conclusion of the USA Indoor Championships yesterday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
"I guess you can't do better than having those two going for you," Valmon said. "They're going to make my job a lot easier."
No doubt about it.
The world indoor heptathlon record stands at 6,476 points.
USA's Dan O'Brien registered that score at the 1993 World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Toronto, and it's remained in the books despite serious challenges by some of the world's most talented all-arounders.
Czech Republic's Roman Seberle scored 6,438 in 2004, countryman Tomas Dvorak amassed 6,424 in 2000, France's Christian Plaziat reached 6,418 in 1992. They rank 2-3-4 on the all-time list.
Now, it's Clay's turn to attack the record. And Hardee's, too.
The American pair will be featured — and highly favored — entries at the world meet in Doha, Qatar, March 12 to 14.
They've earned their tickets as "wild card" invitees based on past performances — Clay on his 2008 Beijing Olympic decathlon gold with a 7,791-point total and Hardee as the 2009 Berlin World Championships decathlon winner with 8,790.
Albuquerque action delivered a mini-preview of events to come in Doha.
On Saturday's program, Clay and Hardee both qualified for the next day's semifinals of the 60-meter hurdles. Clay also advanced to the semis of the 60-meter dash.
Yesterday, both scratched out of those racing assignments to go head-to-head in yet another heptathlon event, the long jump.
Want a close rivalry? This was it, all over again.
In an event won by Jeremy Hicks with a leap of 7.94 meters, or 26 feet, 4 3/4 inches — over Jeff Henderson, who matched that mark, but had no other legal performances in his six-jump series. Hardee and Clay wound up exactly even — or nearly that.
Both sailed 7.35 meters, or 24 feet, 1 1/2 inches. But Hardee placed 10th and Clay 11th on the next-best-jump rule. Hardee's backup jump was 7.25 meters (23-9 1/2) to Clay's 7.20 meters (23-7 1/2).
Best international score of the 2010 season is Aleksey Drozdov's 6,300 for Russia.
Clay and Hardee are the best of friends, but the fiercest of rivals, too.
Clay's best score in the heptathlon is 6,371 points, set while winning the 2008 world indoor title in Valencia, Spain. Hardee's best is 6,208, set at Albuquerque in 2006.
"We're ready to go at it again," Clay said. "It's going to be interesting, it's going to be fun. But I'm going with the older guy, the more experienced man."