DELAWARE, Ohio –- Despite the fact you’ve likely never actually met Brandon Eddy, you find yourself pulling for the kid after just a few minutes on the phone.
Maybe it’s the earnest passion in the voice of the Baldwin Wallace student-athelete, the way he describes wanting to come back from a March 14 fall in Lincoln, Neb. that cost him an NCAA Division III national championship in the indoor heptathlon.He was leading in points going into the last event of the seven-event competition, the 1,000-meter run. Somehow, he tripped and fell into the infield, which meant an automatic disqualification. He desperately wanted to come back strong here in the DIII outdoor national championship meet.
“It would mean the world to me,” Eddy said Wednesday. “It’s what I think about almost every waking second of the day. So many people have helped me in my life when I was younger, inside and outside of the sport. I feel like winning’s the only way I could really pay back all their sacrifices.”
Or maybe it’s knowing how he must have felt after the first day of competition in the outdoor meet. On Friday, 55 days had passed since that fateful fall that dropped him from first to 13th in the final indoor decathlon standings. The fact that he knows exactly how long it’s been is testament to just how deeply he was moved by the incident.
Yet on Thursday, he fouled out of the long jump and was 20th –- dead last –- after five of the 10 events that make up the decathlon. Eddy won the high jump with a 6 feet, 7 ½ inches and was 17th in shot put; 18th in the 100-meter run; and 20th in the 400-meter race.
That was good enough for 2,635 points – 1,102 points behind leader Brandon Zarnoth of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and more than 500 down to 19th-place Stephen Cooper of Whitworth.
And then there’s the story behind the story. Appendicitis cost him his 2012 outdoor season, and was unable to compete in 2013 after Baldwin Wallace officials self-reported to the NCAA that the school had incorrectly given financial aid to a handful of student-athletes.
March’s indoor heptathlon had turned out to be an odyssey well before the final event. He bettered his personal-best time in the 60-yard dash by a quarter of a second and still wound up last. His contacts fell out during the shot put. His shoe blew out during the high jump, and Maxwell Dunne of St. Thomas loaned him a spare that was a size too small. “It’s kind of a brotherhood in the heptathlon,” Eddy said. “You’re with each other for so long. Some kid let me borrow his shoes, and I ended up going like 6-8”, 6-9.” He won the pole vault the next day to take the lead in the standings. Then came that darned 1,000-meter finale. He accidentally stepped on a rail to the inside of the track, and just like that, it was all over.
Incredibly, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Stephen Sousa came back, helped Eddy up and ran with him to the finish line.
“In the combined events like the decathlon and heptathlon, it’s really a camaraderie between all the athletes,” Eddy said. “We all deserve to win. We all put in the same amount of work. We’re all brothers basically.”
There was no rebuke from the coaching staff at Baldwin Wallace, which is led by William Taraschke. What could they possibly have said? Eddy felt bad enough as it was.
“They just said, ‘You did all you could do. It happens. The chips were on the table, and it just didn’t fall our way,’” Eddy said. “They had faith in me. They know I’m going to bounce back from it. They were there for me. They were very supportive. They probably felt just as much pain as I did.”
Although the meet was in Nebraska, several friends and family from back in his hometown of Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio had made the journey to support him. His parents and girlfriend were there at the finish line.
“I was real excited for the race and then just kind of heartbroken,” Eddy said. “At the same time, it’s all in the Lord’s plan. Even if I’d won the heptathlon, I would be doing the same thing I’m doing now – just training and trying to do the best I can. It’s a hard pill to swallow. I still don’t think I’ve fully took it in yet.”
Then … he added one more thought.
“Hopefully, this weekend I could get redemption,” he concluded.
It would be difficult, if not downright impossible, for Eddy to come from so far back in the pack to win the decathlon Friday. Still, there’s just something about him.
Go for it, young man. Just go for it.