June 4, 2010
For redshirt junior Frank Shotwell, qualifying for the 2010 NCAA Championships -- to be held June 9-12 in Eugene, Ore. -- this season was no easy task, especially after his injury-ridden junior campaign.
The day was Feb.7, 2009, a day he will not soon forget. Shotwell, was at the Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., trying to reach an indoor qualifying mark in the heptathlon. In the first event, the 60-meter hurdles, Shotwell ran a then-lifetime best and admittedly felt the fastest he has ever felt. Even his first two attempts in the long jump did not pose any problems.
It was the third attempt that derailed Shotwell's season. He tore his left hamstring on the takeoff jump and missed the rest of the season, not allowing him to defend the Big Ten titles he won as a sophomore in 2008.
He spent six months on the shelf, most of that time in a training room and in rehab. He saw massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors. With his hamstring limiting his mobility, Shotwell spent the time working on throwing and upper-body strength. He even learned Tae Kwon Do to help improve his flexibility.
Shotwell was not 100 percent until earlier this fall. Assistant coach David Kaiser, who oversees field events, worked closely with Shotwell and has seen vast improvements, both mentally and physically.
"He's a guy that's very focused about what he wants to get done," Kaiser said. "After his injury, he and his family invested a lot of time and energy to get him back to the point where he can be productive. He had to trust his hamstring again, but to do that, he had to answer some questions. How hard do you push? When do you back off? He needed to know when to say when so he wouldn't injure it again.
"With that said, he's a guy that's very focused about what he wants to get done. He's got high goals. I know getting back to nationals was high for him. I really think his best is yet to come."
David Kaiser (left) and Frank Shotwell
It might come next year, when Shotwell will be able to focus on just the outdoor decathlon. He has exhausted his indoor eligibility but will be able to compete in the outdoor season because of the injury that allowed him to redshirt.
It might be after Shotwell leaves the University of Michigan when he can focus solely on training, but Kaiser believes Shotwell is eventually going to become an 8,000-point scorer, which would put him among the world's best. It's just going to take some time for him to get there.
In the 113-year history of the Michigan men's track and field program, Frank Shotwell is the only athlete to win Big Ten titles in the heptathlon (indoor) and the decathlon (outdoor), both in 2008. Heading into the last event of the decathlon (the 1,500-meter run) at the 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Champaign, Ill., Shotwell was in third place, trailing R.J. McGinnis (Minnesota) and Shawn Colligan (Penn State). Shotwell leap-frogged both men to claim the title, by one point over Colligan.
The 2010 Big Ten Outdoor Championships ended in a similar way, with McGinnis edging Shotwell for the title by just two points. Despite the runner-up finish, Shotwell managed to break his own school record with 7,379 points, which remarkably came almost two years to the day when he set it the first time (7,362 at 2008 Big Ten meet).
"It was R.J.'s turn to get back at me," Shotwell joked. "I gave the 1,500-meter run all I could and had nothing left at the end of it. Any event could have changed the outcome of the whole thing. A tenth of a second on a run or 10 centimeters on a throw and it could have swung in my favor."
Still, it's not crazy to think that Shotwell is the best multi-event performer in the history of the program. He's an intense trainer, working out six days a week, often for two-and-a-half hours each day, balancing running, weight training, flexibility and any technical aspects of core events.
But the thought of Shotwell becoming a decathlete almost never manifested. He was an elite hurdler at Medina (H.S.) in Medina, Ohio, and was recruited to Michigan by Fred LaPlante to do just that. It was after he got to Ann Arbor, though, that Kaiser worked with Shotwell to morph him into the supreme athlete he is today.
"The decathlon chooses you," Shotwell says with a laugh. "It was a growing process and a different experience from anything I had ever done. I'm better for having done it."
Instead of working at just one event, Shotwell had to learn nine others, including pole vault, an event which he had no prior knowledge of prior to coming to Michigan. In the beginning, Shotwell placed an extra-high jump pit directly to the right of the pole vault box because he couldn't stay straight."
"It's probably the scariest thing to do in life," Shotwell joked. "Once you lose the fear of it, it's one of the most exciting events in all of track and field."
The decathlon begins on Thursday (June 10) at 10 a.m. PDT, and Shotwell has his work cut out for him against a stacked field, which includes two-time defending NCAA decathlon champion Ashton Eaton of Oregon. At the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships, Eaton set the new world record in the heptathlon, breaking a 17-year-old mark.
Out of the 24 competitors in the decathlon field, Shotwell was ranked 20th, but feels he can make All-America status at the NCAA Championships, which would require him to finish among the top eight. Michigan has never had an All-American in the decathlon, though the Wolverines have had at least one athlete gain All-America status each year since 2002.
"There are no holes in this competition," Kaiser said. "There are world-class competitors in this field. Frank has to stay focused on what he can do with his own physical capabilities. He's a competitor. If you surround him with guys who are competitors, he tends to rise to the occasion and compete at his hardest. It's going to be very beneficial for him to be in a field like that where he can line up and just race."
"Anything can happen," Shotwell acknowledged. "Guys can get hurt, drop out. I'm going to go out there fast and powerful. I'm going to be competitive. I know I am supposed to be there. I know I can compete with these guys."
Contact: Brad Rudner (734) 763-4423