FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (UA) - Behind a clutch performance in the final event of the decathlon, Gunnar Nixon won the gold medal Wednesday at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona. The Razorback soon-to-be sophomore finished the two-day, 10-event competition with 8,018 points, surpassing the previous American junior record of 8,016 points held by Arkansas teammate Kevin Lazas. The win by Nixon represents the first-ever decathlon medal by the USA at the World Junior Championships.
Heading into the final event, Nixon was in second place overall and needed to finish 14 seconds ahead of then-leader Jake Stein of Australia for the win. Nixon ended up with a personal-best run of 4:22.36, nearly 24 seconds clear of Stein. Nixon had a previous best of 4:30.41 in the 1,500 meters.
"The best part was the last 100 meters (of the 1,500) because I knew I had the space I needed ahead of the Australian fellow," Nixon said. "I almost came into tears the last 20 meters because I knew I had won it. No lows, no bad events in this meet. I'm so happy. I can't explain this feeling. Words can't even describe. I feel so lucky. I feel blessed just to be here and be able to compete."
After the first two events of the day, Nixon-co-captain for Team USA-was in third place behind Stein and Tim Dekker of the Netherlands, respectively. With the best pole vault of the top three, Nixon moved into first place by one point with a final clearance of 4.50m/14-9. He had a best throw of 56.25m/184-6 in the javelin but was outdistanced by Stein in the event and trailed by 86 points heading into the 1,500 meters.
During the course of the two-day competition, Nixon established an overall personal best in the 1,500 meters and junior-implement bests in the shot put (14.54m/47-8.5) and discus (42.23m/138-6). In addition to a smaller shot put and discus, competitors in the junior decathlon also use shorter hurdles. Nixon's gold is the first of the week for Team USA.
Razorback signee Jarrion Lawson posted a bronze-medal finish in the long jump final. His best mark of 7.64m/25-0.75 came in the fourth round of jumps. With that attempt, he moved from seventh place to third. Lawson was the only member of Team USA in the 12-man final. In other action involving a future Razorback, Stefan Fennell of Jamaica was disqualified in his semifinal heat of the 110-meter hurdles.
Lawson returns to competition Thursday for qualifying in the triple jump. The event final is scheduled for Saturday, the final day of the meet. For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Decathlon (day two/final)
1. Gunnar Nixon (USA) - 8,018 points
3. 110m hurdles - 14.54 (906 points)
6. Discus - 42.23m/138-6 (710 points)
4. Pole vault - 4.50m/14-9 (760 points)
3. Javelin - 56.25m/184-6 (682 points)
1. 1,500m - 4:22.36 (PR) (796 points)
110m Hurdles (semifinals)
--. Stefan Fennell (JAM) - DQ
Long jump (final)
3. Jarrion Lawson (USA) - 7.64m/25-0.75
(Copyright 2012 UA)