DES MOINES - With nine events behind him and only 100 meters standing between Daniel Gooris and the finish line, the University of Northern Iowa junior decathlete dug deep and found a little extra on Thursday at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The result was a furious finishing kick that led to a lifetime-best 1500m time and a new personal-best decathlon score of 7,629 points, pushing Gooris into a 10th-place finish at Drake Stadium.
After standing in 18th place through the first five events, Gooris steadily climbed the charts throughout the day. He opened with the second-fastest 110m hurdles time of his career at 15.11 seconds and followed up with the fourth-best discus mark in the field, throwing 139-11 (42.65m). Gooris cleared 17-00.75 (5.20m) in the pole vault - second-best in the field - but struggled in the javelin with a mark of 172-10 (52.69m).
"I was real worried after the javelin, and I got down for a little bit," Gooris said. "I just sat there for a little while and thought, 'I've got to have a good attitude. If I can have a good attitude, I'm going to end well.'"
'End well' may have been an understatement.
In the 1500m, the decathlon's final event, Gooris powered down the home stretch to finish in a personal-best 4:27.81. He moved up from 11th to 10th place overall, and his total of 7,629 points surpassed his previous personal best from this year's Drake Relays by five points.
"It was nice having a PR in the 1500. I wasn't expecting it - I went out pretty fast and then slowed down a lot - and it just happened. I couldn't tell you how the race went," said Gooris.
"In typical UNI fashion, Daniel Gooris competed with the heart of a champion," noted UNI head track and field coach Dan Steele. "Setting a lifetime best at the NCAA Championships is all we can ask of any of our athletes."
This marks the sixth time since 2006 that a Panther has finished in the nation's Top-10 in the decathlon. Raven Cepeda pulled the feat three times from 2006-08 and Mat Clark did it in 2008 and 2009. Gooris entered the meet with the 15th-best score in the nation.
Senior Olimpia Nowak used strong performances in the shot put and 200m to close the first day of heptathlon competition at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 13th place. Nowak scored 3,329 points through the first four events. Oregon's Brianne Theisen leads with 3,803 points.
Nowak opened the day with a time of 13.78 seconds in the 100m hurdles and followed up with a clearance of 5-03.00 (1.60m) in the high jump. Sitting in 18th place after two events, Nowak posted an outdoor personal-best mark of 40-00.50 (12.20m) in the shot put and wrapped up the day with a personal-best 200m time of 24.76 seconds.
Nowak's shot put and 100m hurdles performances ranked sixth and tenth, respectively, among the heptathlon field.
Heptathlon competition resumes at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon with the long jump, javelin and 800m. Nowak will be looking to top the highest NCAA Outdoor Championships finish of her career - a 10th-place finish in the heptathlon last season.
After completing 10 events over the last two days, Gooris will also compete in the pole vault starting at 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Senior Justin Romero will take part in the shot put at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.