Jacksonville's Garrett Scantling sixth after opening day of Tokyo Olympics decathlon
After years on the sidelines, Garrett Scantling worked tirelessly to return to track and field's most punishing event.
Jacksonville's first Olympic decathlete will have more work ahead in order to reach the medal podium in Rio.
Struggling at the start but ending the day with a new personal-best, the former multi-sport standout at Episcopal posted a sixth-place point total through the first day of the 10-event decathlon at the Tokyo Olympics.
The highlight of Scantling's day was the finish: a personal-best 48.25 seconds in the 400-meter run, setting himself up to race among the contenders in the remaining events.
That mark brought Scantling 897 decathlon points, boosting his count to 4,338 for the five-event opening day.
Canadian Damian Warner leads with 4,722 points, followed by Ashley Moloney of Australia with 4,641 and Pierce Lepage of Canada with 4,529.
A difficult start in the two opening events left Scantling with a large deficit to make up.
Still, with five events left, including specialties like the pole vault, Scantling still has a chance to make up ground and claw back into the medal chase.
Scantling began by running 10.67 in the 100-meter dash, then followed with a 7.30-meter leap in the long jump.
Those two marks combined to yield 109 fewer points than his performance at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June in Eugene, Ore., where he went 10.53 in the 100 and leaped 7.61 meters in the long jump.
Scantling got back on course in the shot put, with a throw of 15.59 meters — still below his mark from Olympic Trials, but good for fifth overall in this event — before the fourth event, a Wednesday morning high jump of 1.99 meters. He had cleared 2.05 meters two months ago in Oregon.
His 400-meter effort, however, closed the opening session on a positive note, moving him to within 31 points of the fourth place occupied by American Steven Bastien.
Scantling, who starred in football at Episcopal and had brief stints with the Atlanta Falcons and the Jaguars in 2017, is attempting to join the ranks of American decathlon champions, a line that extends from Jim Thorpe in 1912 to Ashton Eaton in 2016.
The 10-event competition concludes Thursday morning with the final discipline, the 1,500-meter run.