Penn senior wins decathlon at Penn Relays

Max Westman pole-vaults during the decathlon. He was the first athlete from the host school to win the event since former Penn football coach George Munger did so in 1932.
Max Westman pole-vaults during the decathlon. He was the first athlete from the host school to win the event since former Penn football coach George Munger did so in 1932.
Posted: April 23, 2009

Max Westman could not figure out why people wanted him to pose for photographs next to the statue of legendary Penn football coach George Munger yesterday at the west end of Franklin Field.

Then, as information trickled toward him, he got it.

When Westman won the decathlon yesterday at the Penn Relays, he became the first athlete from the host school to win the multi-event competition since Munger did so as a Penn undergrad in 1932.

"I did not know that," Westman said in his best Dana Carvey-does-Johnny Carson impression. "I did know the training room is named after him."

Munger's win came in the last year the carnival conducted a decathlon until 1978.

A senior from Lower Merion High, Westman was not ecstatic with his score since his total of 6,842 points was nearly 500 below his personal best. But he did what you're supposed to do in the decathlon - post the best score you can in an event, then forget about it and move on to the next one.

"I battled through some events that I didn't do as well as I had hoped," he said. "But the key thing is to just keep moving to the next event and not worry about the previous one."

In the women's heptathlon, sophomore Gabby Gioia of North Carolina overtook teammate Alexandra Coppadge in the next-to-last event to capture the victory with 5,159 points.

Westman saw his slim lead over Penn State freshman Anya Uzoh get even slimmer in yesterday's first event, the 110-meter hurdles, after he hit a hurdle. But he ran away from Uzoh with solid performances in the discus (142 feet, 2 inches) and javelin (175-3), although he struggled in the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 56.63 seconds.

"That was pretty slow, 20 or 30 seconds slower than what I can run," he said. "A lot of the events were below where I wanted to be, but if you get solid marks, they build to a good score."

Uzoh also faded in the 1,500 and fell to third, behind Westman and Matt Joseph of Rochester Institute of Technology.

Gioia, who won the Atlantic Coast Conference heptathlon Friday, said it was "pretty tough" to come back one week later and compete in another. She didn't match her ACC score of 5,334, but she didn't seem to mind.

"It was my first time coming to Penn Relays," she said.

Coppadge was the first-day leader, but she dropped to second in the sixth event when she had a poor javelin throw. Gioia heaved the javelin 136-3 to better her teammate by 226 points, and she went on to complete the victory with a time of 2:25.78 in the 800.

"Alex and I are great friends on the track," Gioia said. "We're great friends off the track. We use each other really well throughout the meet and we help each other in areas that we have strengths in."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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