Chase Dalton and Curtis Carr will represent the United States at the 12th Annual World Junior Championships in Poland. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
COLUMBUS -- Two freshman athletes from Brigham Young University have won the coveted title of being the top junior athletes in the United States in their respective events, and have earned the right to represent the United States at the 12th Annual IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland from July 8-13.
Chase Dalton, a native of Tigard, Ore., won the U.S. title in the decathlon with an "A Standard" score of 7,202 points, while Curtis Carr, a native of Nashville, Ind., won the Junior National Championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in a qualifying time of 8:55.64.
"We have had a few athletes over the years win at U.S. Junior Nationals," BYU head men's track & field coach Mark Robison said. "But, we have never had two athletes win in the same year. This is a pretty big deal for two of our freshman athletes to win at Nationals and to have the opportunity to represent the United States in an international competition. Holy cow, this is such a big deal for them, and for our program."
Dalton, who finished second at the Mountain West Conference Championships in the decathlon in May, and competed in the javelin at the NCAA West Regional Championships, earned the right to represent the United States by defeating 17 other athletes at the U.S. Junior National Championships over the weekend, including second-place finisher Weston Leutz from North Dakota State by 79 points.
"Being the best in the country is a great feeling," Dalton said. "It's unreal."
For Dalton, making the U.S. Team almost didn't happen. Following the two heats of the 400-meter competition, BYU coach Patrick Shane was called to the press box where he was informed Dalton had been disqualified for running on the lane line -- a legal advantage at the NCAA level, but a disqualification under IAAF rules. Shane began the process of protesting, but was told there was nothing that could be done.
After nearly five hours from receiving the news he had been disqualified, and figuring his dream of going to Poland had been dashed, Dalton learned there had been an error in the disqualification. When noting the bib number and hip number that Dalton was wearing during the heat, it was determined they had identified the wrong athlete from BYU. Instead, teammate Jordan Claderwood was disqualified for running on the lane line and Dalton was cleared of the infraction.
"It was the worst five hours of my life," Dalton said. "Obviously I felt bad for Jordan, but I was confident I had not run on the line. I was so relieved when they told me I had not been disqualified. This is something I had worked so hard for."
For Dalton, making the trip to Poland -- his first-ever trip outside the United States -- will mark the end of a year-long goal.
"After competing at the U.S. Junior National meet last season, I made a goal to come back and earn the chance to go to Poland," Dalton said. "When I found out that the World Championships were going to be in Poland from July 8 through July 13, I put it on my calendar and have been working towards going ever since.
"I've been planning things around it, telling my family and friends that I would be in Poland from July 8 through the 13th. It's been something I have been working for all year. I'm excited to go. I've never been outside the United States -- not even to Canada or Mexico -- so this is going to be a great experience."
After Dalton competes in Poland, he will head to his hometown outside Portland, Ore., to complete the necessary paperwork to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Carr, who finished fourth at the MWC Championships in May in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after hitting a barrier, falling to the track, getting spiked by a competitor, and then getting up to continue the race, won the steeplechase in Ohio this past weekend by defeating a field of 22 other athletes. His time, 8:55.64, eclipsed the world qualifying standard by nearly 15 seconds.
Carr will return to the United States and prepare for his Church mission to Costa Rica. Carr is scheduled to leave in August and will not return to the United States until August, 2010.
"We have two outstanding young men who will not only be representing the United States, wearing USA on their uniform, but also will be representing BYU at an international competition," BYU coach Patrick Shane said.
Shane will also represent the USA and BYU at the World Junior Championships. For the second time in his career, he will be serving as the head coach for the women's USA Junior National Team. Shane has previously served as the head women's coach at the World Junior Championships in Kosovo, and as an assistant coach at the world championships in England.
The World Junior Championships are held every two years. Athletes who are 19 or younger during the year of competition are eligible to compete after obtaining minimum qualifying standards. In 2006, BYU's Chris Carter dominated the world to win the 400-meter hurdles and BYU freshman Amy Fowler finished eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.