Randolph running down a dream
Special to The Seattle Times
For Chris Randolph, the inner passion started as young boy when he started running to ease the pain after his mother died.
That passion is documented with an unframed picture on the wall of his Seattle apartment. It shows an 8-year-old boy, grinning from ear to ear and holding hands with his father and friends while taking part in a fun run.
The passion still exists, but how the mind, body and spirit have grown.
Randolph, 22, won his second consecutive NCAA Division II decathlon on May 26, and has swept three major awards for the second year in a row — Seattle Pacific's male athlete of the year, Great Northwest Athletic Conference co-male athlete of the year and NCAA Division II field athlete of the year.
Unrecruited out of Denver Christian High School, Randolph is a far cry from the little boy in the picture.
Randolph put up 7,872 points in winning his most recent NCAA Division II decathlon crown to hike his own school record total, post the meet's top score in 19 years and put up the third-highest score by an American in 2006. His total would have won the NCAA Division I meet.
"I love that picture, and if I had a fire, it's the one thing I'd grab," said Randolph, who graduated from SPU on June 10 with a degree in psychology. "My dad and I are running toward the camera and we're holding hands in a run-a-thon. I ran the last lap each time with everyone. We'd sprint the last lap.
"It symbolizes that I'm no different now than I was then. It reminds me when I forget why I'm doing what I'm doing, because some days are hard. I go home and look at that picture on those days."
The picture offers special incentive for Randolph, who hopes to step out of the shadows of small-college track and secure a sponsor to make the decathlon his career at the 2006 U.S. national championships, which start Wednesday in Indianapolis. The 10-event decathlon is Friday and Saturday.
Randolph started running with his father, James, a marathoner, to help erase the painful memory of losing his mother, Cheryl. She died on his sixth birthday from internal bleeding during surgery.
"I started running to lose the pain of losing my mom," Randolph said. "Losing my mom gave me my dedication to do what I'm doing. I took things more seriously at a younger age.
"Losing my mom sparked the running. She's always with me. I always know she's watching me. I tap into that."
Randolph, who wants to compete at least four more years, hopes to emerge from anonymity.
"This is a coming-out party for me in some ways," he said.
Randolph has an eye to the future. He hopes to be one of three U.S. men to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics.
Unlike most decathletes, there's not a weak event for Randolph.
"He went up by 500 points his senior year," said Karl Lerum, SPU track and field coach. "The Olympics, those are some big goals there, but it's realistic if he keeps improving. He can be a consistent 8,000-point decathlete. If you hit 8,000 and up, you are a very elite athlete.
"I have no doubt that he'll do it in the near future."
This was the guy who, while still in high school, called then-SPU coach Jack Hoyt and practically begged for a scholarship. Initially, Hoyt turned down Randolph, who ran relays and was second in state in the high jump in high school.
Hoyt reconsidered and called Randolph back. Hoyt offered him $1,500 in tuition for the school year if he would compete in the decathlon.
"I needed money for college," Randolph said. "I agreed, and then asked, 'What is the decathlon?' I had to learn everything."
The Falcons star in track and field has made giant strides since his freshman year at SPU. Randolph evolved from a spindly 6-foot, 145-pounder as a freshman to a 6-2, 185-pounder.
A steady diet of better meals, protein shakes and serious weightlifting workouts helped transform Randolph's body.
"The first question anyone ever asks is, 'Are you on steroids?' " Randolph said. "I tell them that's ridiculous. That's the stupidest thing I could do. My body has been building to catch up to the talent."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company