Decathlon athletes on the Olympic level earn the title of world’s greatest athlete because of the sport’s many demands on the human body and the skill levels required. As a decathlete at Faith Academy in Marble Falls, junior Gus Henry has no trouble believing that is true.
“There are so many different aspects and abilities you have to acquire,” he said from experience. “It really tests every single skill you possess.”
Henry was ranked No. 1 in 2019 in the boys 16-and-under age group in the decathlon after earning 5,963 points. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped competition before the 2020 rankings were released.
Still, Henry has the best high jump at 6 feet, 6 inches for the small school division of the Texas Association of Parochial and Private Schools. He cleared the mark in January at the Carl Lewis Invitational in Houston.
The high jump is one of 10 events in the decathlon which also includes the long jump, pole vault, discus, shot put, javelin, 110-meter high hurdles, 100-meter dash, 400 meter run, and 1,500 meter run.
“It’s always been really fun,” Henry said. “It takes stamina, endurance, and focus. It’s 10 events over two full days. You finish one event, you have to let everything go, no matter what happened.”
His favorite event is the javelin; his best throw, 159 feet.
What he enjoys the most about the decathlon is that success comes down to individual performance. Unlike in relays or other team sports, Henry has no one to blame for a bad outcome but himself.
“I can fix it, I can work things within myself,” he said.
Henry is also a member of the Faith Academy boys basketball team. He wanted to play baseball, too, but decided against it so he can concentrate on the decathlon and a possible scholarship. It was a hard decision as baseball is a passion in his family. Grandfather Bill Henry was a left-handed relief pitcher with the 1962 Cincinnati Reds. Dad Mark Henry was a minor league pitcher.
His scholarship hopes are being shopped by his personal coach, Sue Humphrey, who he credits for his success in the decathlon. Humphrey coached Charles Austin, who won the gold medal in the high jump at the 1996 Olympics.
Henry’s mother, Angela, an All-American long jumper at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, said Coach Humphrey has been reaching out to universities to tell them about her son’s achievements and dedication to the sport. He has received inquiries from Arizona State University and the University of Incarnate Word. Others have spoken with Humphrey as well.
Gus wasn’t even considering the decathlon two years ago. Back then, he was simply concentrating on being the best hurdler, high jumper, and long jumper he could, and he was excelling. That got him wondering if he could do well in other events, although In track and field, athletes are limited to competing in a total of five events. Henry wanted to do more. Soon after that realization, Faith Academy track and field head coach Steve McCannon connected Henry with Humphrey.
The first time the two met, Henry performed the high jump for her. That’s when she started coaching him, but it wasn’t because of his talent.
“Every time she told me what to work on, instantly I responded,” he said. “I showed devotion and understanding to the concepts. I was willing to work hard for her. Sue made the decathlon a really enjoyable experience and fun. She takes the stress and pain away.”
Because of how well he performed the last several months, he was invited to compete in the pentathlon at the New Balance Indoor Meet, which was to occur March 13-15 in New York City. It was canceled as the Henrys were in line to get into the facility. The pentathlon has five events: 60-meter dash, 1,000 meters, shot put, high jump, and long jump.
Henry said he will continue to prepare to compete and has high hopes for 2020 even as COVID-19 put a damper on the spring season.
“There’ll be opportunities in the summer,” he said. “I continue to train and keep applying myself.”