By Chris Lotsbom
DES MOINES, Iowa (19-Jun) -- Yesterday, start lists for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships were released, with many of America's best athletes entered in their respective disciplines. A total of 37 men submitted marks for the 800m, hoping to become one of 28 accepted entrants to take the blue Drake Stadium track for Thursday's first round of competition. One name at the far bottom of the proposed entries sheet may have caught some by surprise: Duke University decathlete Curtis Beach.
Unfortunately, the 22-year-old from New Mexico was one of nine rejected entrants, a disappointment for the former NCAA Indoor heptathlon champion.
"I tried to get in the 800m because I thought that would be really cool. But I didn't have a mark for it; I just submitted last year's mark [1:47.75] in it and they didn't accept it," said Beach, speaking to Race Results Weekly outside of Drake Stadium on Wednesday.
Beach, primarily a decathlete, was hoping to gain acceptance into the event after aggravating an elbow injury at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., earlier this month. Because of the injury, Beach had to scratch from the decathlon here in Des Moines.
Before attending Duke, Beach was a standout prep 800m and 1500m runner, even running cross country for Albuquerque Academy High School. In 2009, he finished third at Nike Outdoor Nationals over 800m, timing 1:50.75.
"I think the 800m is probably my best event outside of the decathlon. It's my favorite event out of everything including all the decathlon events," said Beach, who in high school was named the 2009-2010 Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
At the USA Championships, Beach simply wanted to compete in an event. Submitting marks in both the open long jump and 800m, Beach wanted a chance to extend his season --and perhaps have a little fun by returning to the track.
"I just wanted to run, run with the guys like Nick Symmonds and Robby Andrews, like I had in high school. Guys like Elijah Greer and Cas Loxsom," he said, the spirit of the event making him giddy before turning his focus back to the long jump. "Fortunately I got a mark in the long jump that qualified and got me here."
When asked if he misses racing two laps around the track, Beach answered candidly.
"I do, I really do," he said. "I ran at Nike Outdoor [Nationals] my senior year and I got to run Penn Relays in the 4x800m with a lot of those guys. It's just a fun race and I love it. I think it's going to be a great competition. I'm not sure if I could've made the finals or anything, but it would have been really fun to run it."
Currently, Beach's personal best for 800m sits at 1:47.75, while his fastest 1500m clocking is 3:59.13. Interestingly, his 1500m time is within two seconds of the decathlon 1500m world record.
Beach's most notable distance race may perhaps have been one he lost --though with the utmost sportsmanship. Coming down the finishing straight at last year's U.S. Olympic Track Trials, Beach --while in the lead of the decathlon 1500m-- slowed down and moved to the side of the track, letting Ashton Eaton take the win. Beach did so because Eaton was about to set a new world record of 9,039 points.
Has Beach considered returning solely to the middle distance events? Yes.
"It's crossed my mind for sure, especially coming towards the end of college and looking to the future at what I want to do," he said. "I think if I do decide to go with the 800m I think I'll do very well."
But for now, his focus lies at improving in the decathlon.
"Right now I really enjoy the decathlon and I'm having fun with it, and that's what matters most," he said.