On June 9th and 10th, Marquette senior Joe Keys competed in the decathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The native of Downers Grove, Illinois, came into the national meet seeded 17th in the event out of 24 competitors by posting a career best 7,537 points back in April in a meet hosted by the University of Miami. Since that was Keys’ best career performance as well as the best mark in MU program history, it was always going to be an uphill battle for him to make a major impact on the competition.
Let it never be said that Joe Keys did not try his absolute hardest to make that major impact.
Keys posted not one, not two, not three, but four personal bests in the 10 event competition to earn 7,479 points in the decathlon in Eugene, Oregon, to finish 12th overall and earn Second Team All-American honors. It is the first time that any Golden Eagle, men’s or women’s teams, have earned track and field AA honors since Wally Ellenson finished fifth in the high jump in 2015.
The personal bests came split across both days of the event. Keys started off with one of his bests, going for a 11.13 seconds time in the 100 meter dash, and he wrapped up the day with another. His 400 meter dash time of 49.84 was 0.06 seconds under his individual all-time record. In the middle of all of that, Keys finished 18th in the shot put by posting his career best toss of 12.67 meters.
Starting off Day Two ranked #14 in the competition, Keys knew that he needed to keep the big performances coming. He would only end up with one new personal record, but he had three top 10 finishes. He finished 10th in the 110 meter hurdles, sixth in the javelin throw, and second in the 1,500 meters. That last one, in the final event of the decathlon, was his fourth and final PR of the meet, blazing to a 4:26.83 time.
The 766 points for that second place finish may have just done the trick to scoot Keys into 12th place, as Noah Swaby from Penn State finished just 51 points behind Keys in 13th place. Swaby ran a 4:39.53 in the 1,500 meters to earn 683 points, 83 points fewer than Keys. I don’t know about you, but I can tell that 83 is more than 51, and that differential in the final event ended up making the difference for Keys.
The top eight competitors in each event earn First Team All-American Honors. With a 12th place finish, that means that Keys finished 154 points short of the 7,633 points posted by Oregon’s Max Vollmer for the eighth and final First Team spot. Given that Keys would have had to re-break the school record and his own personal best by 97 points to beat out Vollmer, all you can do is say that Keys did a hell of a job to overperform his original #17 seeding and tip your cap for one hell of a final performance.