MADISON, Wis. — Based solely on the numbers, the five-event pentathlon is an easier event than the seven-discipline heptathlon.
That didn’t stop Wisconsin from getting down to work on Friday inside The Shell, however.
And Japheth Cato’s performance certainly didn’t come easy, as the sophomore put together an outstanding day to knock off All-American Joe Detmer’s five-year-old school record in the pentathlon. Cato tallied a nation-leading 4,040 points to claim the event and hold off teammate David Grzesiak, who also topped Detmer’s record with a 3,993-point performance.
Detmer’s mark of 3,976 points had already sustained a pair of challenges over the past two seasons from Grzesiak, who saw his run of victories in the Badgers’ season-opening pentathlon snapped after claiming wins in 2010 and 2011.
This time, however, Cato made sure the record went down for good.
“I didn’t even know what the school record was until I got here today,” Cato said. “But if I can beat [Detmer's] pent record I know I have a good shot to beat the heptathlon record.
“That’s a big goal. Being a sophomore and beating a school record would be a big deal. To even stand next to his record is a really good feeling.”
Cato stands next to Detmer’s heptathlon record after falling just 19 points short of the mark en route to winning the Big Ten title in that event last season with a score of 5,742 points.
From the start Friday, Cato made himself difficult to catch with back-to-back performances worth 900-plus points each.
He opened with a run of 8.00 seconds in the 60 hurdles, matching the personal-best mark he set just a week earlier at the Badger Track Classic. It was his third-consecutive run of 8.01 or better in the hurdles.
From there, he uncorked a leap of 24 feet, 1 3/4 inches to post the best mark of the day in the long jump. He added a field-leading clearance of 6-9 in the high jump to cement the win, but Cato was still running against the clock as the field started the 1000 meters.
“I knew what I needed to run,” he said. “The coaches told me not to kick because I’m pole vaulting tomorrow, so I just kept it smooth and kept the same pace and brought it in.”
He needed just to break the 3-minute mark to assure himself of a 4,000-point total and turned in a time of 2:56.50 that was fourth-best in the field. Grzesiak’s run of 2:43.90 led the way.
Overall, it was part of a strong showing for the Badgers’ entire multi-event group. Senior Ian Jansen posted personal-best marks in both the long jump and high jump to score a lifetime-best 3,551 points and take third place.
In addition, freshmen Charlie Foss (fifth, 3,168 points) and Ben Schreib (seventh, 2,785) both made solid debuts in their first-ever collegiate multi-event competition.
Those are good signs for a Badgers team that is looking for big contributions from its deep combined events group once championship season rolls around.
“We’re on pace to do some really good things,” Cato said. “I was talking to Dave [Grzesiak after the 1,000 and I said, ‘If this is what we’re able to do, we’re going to do some big things this year.’ “