Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Arkansas decathlete ready to compete at NCAAs
Arkansas' Marcus Weaver competes at the 2023 SEC Outdoor Championships in Baton Rouge, La.
FAYETTEVILLE — After winning NCAA Division III decathlon titles at Wisconsin-Eau Claire the previous two years, Marcus Weaver has shown this season he can compete on college track and field’s biggest stage.
Weaver, who transferred to Arkansas, finished second at the SEC Championships three weeks ago with a career-best 7,910 points and ranks No. 8 nationally going into the NCAA Championships.
“I’ve been working for a score like that for quite some time,” said Weaver, whose previous top mark was 7,549 points this year at the Mt. SAC Relays. “I called my parents afterwards and I got a little emotional. I started crying. It was something pretty special.”
Weaver finished second at the SEC Championships to Georgia junior Kyle Garland, who won with 8,589 points and is the collegiate record holder at 8,720.
“As a D-III athlete, the D-I athletes are almost like pros to us,” Weaver said. “So to be standing on the podium next to Kyle Garland was really cool for me.”
Weaver trains with Arkansas senior Ayden Owens-Delerme, last year’s NCAA decathlon champion who is focusing on the 400-meter hurdles this season and ranks No. 1 nationally in his new event.
“Quite frankly, I had never heard of Marcus before he got here,” Owens-Delerme said. “But I’m very impressed with what he’s done, and he’s going to continue to improve and show that he’s one of the best decathletes in the country.
More from WholeHogSports: All of our coverage of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional
“I think a guy like Marcus, moving up from a D-III school, he has a different mentality, got it out of the mud so to speak.
“At the D-III level, they don’t have the resources and the support you have at this level. So when guys do come up, they’re going to appreciate everything we have here and take full advantage of it.
“Be extremely grateful, extremely resourceful and honestly just work a lot harder than a lot of other guys you see.
“I’ve got to give props to Marcus for being top eight in the country already in only his second decathlon as a Division I athlete. He’s ascended the ranks and worked hard to climb his way up.”
Weaver, a junior from Lewiston, Minn., drew plenty of interest when he entered the transfer portal. Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas were among the Division I schools that recruited him along with Arkansas.
A visit to Arkansas, Weaver said, convinced him to sign with the Razorbacks.
“I really liked my time at Eau Claire and had great coaches and teammates, but the facilities there are nothing compared to what Arkansas has,” Weaver said. “That was a big reason why I fell in love with Arkansas so fast.
“Probably for the first four months of me being here, every single time I walked into our facilities, I was happy and giddy. It felt like I was living my dream.
“Every day I walked in here, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time.
“I’d always seen places like this on TV and on social media, but it wasn’t something I thought I’d be able to experience for myself. I’ll ever take this place for granted.”
Weaver got off to a slow start at the SEC Championships when he ran 11.46 seconds in the 100 meters for the ninth-fastest time.
But by the end of the first five events, Weaver had moved up to sixth with 3,995 points, including a career-best 49 feet, 4 1/2 inches in the shot-put and clearing 6-8 1/4 in the high jump.
Weaver continued moving up in the standings on the second day when he had the top javelin throw (215-4) and then capped his performance by running 4:31.55 in the 1,500 meters — a personal-best by seven seconds.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, to string that many events together and have the discipline to stay focused and not have a rough event get the better of you,” Razorbacks Assistant Coach Travis Geopfert, an All-American decathlete at Northern Iowa, said of Weaver bouncing back from the 100. “But Marcus is learning how to manage the decathlon. I like how grounded he stayed.
“He was just so even-keeled. Then he really nailed that 1,500. It was awesome.”
Weaver said making the move from Wisconsin-Eau Claire to Arkansas wasn’t always smooth.
“There was a little bit of a transition period here,” he said. “It took me some time to get used to being a Division I athlete.
“Every athlete goes through ups and downs, but I’d think, ‘Maybe I don’t fit in. Maybe I’m not quite at D-I level.’ It’s not a great mentality at all, but it happened a little bit.
“Now I know, ‘I do belong here. I do fit in. I can compete with the best.’
“That makes me so excited and confident for nationals, where I feel like I can go all out and really put a big score up.”
Weaver has a strong training group at Arkansas with Owens-Delerme and two other teammates who will compete in the decathlon at the NCAA Championships in Yariel Soto Torrado and Daniel Spejcher.
“There were times Marcus would be getting beat in practice and would get a little bit frustrated,” Geopfert said. “I just kept reminding him, ‘There are events you’re good at, there are events the other guys are good at. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses. You need to focus on the process here and it’s going to pay off. It’s going to work.’
“I just appreciate him trusting it and plugging away, and now he’s reaping the benefits of all the work he’s put in.”
The NCAA Championships decathlon starts Wednesday in Austin, Texas.
“I’m just excited to go compete,” Weaver said. “These last two decathlons I’ve done here have really made me fall in love with it again.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.