Strong as a Mule
Vogel walks on, overcomes injury to win heptathlon title
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –- It all came down to this for University of Central Missouri senior heptathlete Brent Vogel.
Never again would he compete in an indoor meet for the Mules, and he’d faced adversity ever since he arrived on campus. Vogel walked on, won one national title but then redshirted his junior indoor and outdoor seasons due to injury.
Going into the heptathlon’s final 1,000-meter sprint, he trailed Lake Superior State’s Justin Balczak by eight points. Vogel won going away, and his total of 5,760 points was more than enough to put him over the top.
Vogel’s point total shattered the NCAA DII record for the heptathlon, and was 1,300 or so better than his very first heptathlon at Central Missouri.
“This is what we’ve worked for for, me and Kip [Janvrin, the Mules’ co-head track and field coach], ever since the beginning,” said a breathless Vogel minutes later. “We never really thought from the freshman year we’d get this far, but every year, we just kept progressing.”
If going into the last event with an eight-point disadvantage bothered him, Vogel certainly didn’t show it.
“Honestly, I’ve dealt with so much pressure in the last event before,” he said. “I went into this event very relaxed, knowing that I can get it done. I was just going to run my race, PR (set a personal record) and if he holds on and beats me, so be it. I was very calm.”
Vogel is no stranger to pressure. Although he was not recruited out of high school, he nevertheless wanted to continue his track career and expand into multi-events competition. Chip Malmstrom, his coach at Helias High School in Jefferson City, Mo., encouraged him to give walking on at Central Missouri a shot.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about [not making the team] at the time,” Vogel said Wednesday. “I was thinking about just enjoying track and becoming the best I could be. My teammates around me had that same kind of attitude. Keep getting better every year, and you never know where it can take you.”
The decision to walk on worked out. Vogel won his first DII national championship two years ago, in the outdoor decathlon.
“It was awesome,” Vogel said. “It was basically I’ve ever wanted to work for. Honestly, I can’t really describe it. I just came here thinking, ‘Get as good as you can. Get a little better every year, and if my marks allow me to win, they allow me to win. I really wasn’t thinking about the competition. I was just competing against myself, trying to get better.”
Early in the 2012 indoor season, however, Vogel suffered an injury high on his left hamstring. He wound up red-shirting not only that season but the outdoor campaign as well.
That meant that the rest of his collegiate career boiled down to his senior season.
“It was very frustrating,” Vogel said. “I’d gone through a few injuries, but nothing major. Nothing had ever taken me out completely. But my coaches here, they kept me strong. They let me know that it could be a good thing, that I could learn from this and realize what I can and can’t do, how far I can push myself in practice.”
Vogel didn’t just come back from the injury – he came back a vengeance and put up a personal-best mark in the decathlon, even better than his national-championship effort. Another mark in the heptathlon in the season opener stood as the best in Division II competition this year until Saturday.
To even be here in Birmingham meant the world to Vogel, much less being in contention for the heptathlon national championship. He watched the national championships last year from the sidelines.
“It feels great to be back,” said Vogel, a biology major who is preparing to be a chiropractor. “It feels like it’s been a little bit too long. Stepping on this track now, I have to kind of remind myself what it feels like. I wanted to come back and show everyone that I’ve still got it, and I wanted to come back and regain the title for Central Missouri.
“I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be healthy. Something didn’t take me out completely. I just love this sport. This is what our seasons are for, to come here and compete against the best in the nation.”
Janvrin has been there every step of the way through Vogel’s college career. He liked Vogel’s size and the fact that he wasn’t afraid of hard work. Yet did he ever think Vogel was going to be a national championship-type athlete?
“No,” Janvrin stated flatly. “But when you recruit a kid, you can’t determine how hard they want to work, how much desire they have and how much of a competitor they are. I got all three of those with Brent.
“One of the things that’s special about Brent is, not only is he a great athlete, not only is he a great student, he understands the importance of taking care of his body and studying the events. He’s the full package, and that’s why he’s been so fun to work with.”