Fresh off a successful track and field career at Kennesaw State, Jordan Gray is already breaking new ground.
The Ball Ground native already showcased her versatility after placing second in pentathlon at the NCAA indoor championships and seventh in the same event at the NCAA outdoor championships, but she took it to the next level late last month with an American-record 7,921 decathlon points at the National Women’s Decathlon Championships in San Francisco.
“The decathlon is something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now,” Gray said. “I’ve been getting some higher marks in pole vault and discus. I had never run the 1,500 meters, but I got my coach to let me run the mile indoors, so I kinda know about it. Just adding up some numbers over the past year, it’s been a goal to go out there and break the overall decathlon record.”
Gray’s mark broke an 18-year-old American record by 344 points. It was the third-best result ever worldwide and was the best score posted in the world since 2006.
She said adding three new events to her typical heptathlon load was a challenge, but continuing to train with former Kennesaw State coach Andy Eggerth had its advantages as she cycled through metabolic- and neural-based events in training.
“It’s difficult to train for,” Gray said. “You’re adding in discus and pole vault. You’re already trying to figure out how to schedule training for seven different events in the heptathlon. Adding another highly neural event like pole vault, it takes out another day where you can’t focus on something in the heptathlon. It’s just hard to balance.”
Gray dominated the 10-event competition and led from the beginning -- opening with an American decathlon-record 12.16 seconds in the 100 dash.
She also equaled a world decathlon record with a jump of 20 feet, 3½ inches in the long jump, jumped a personal-best 12-2 in the pole vault, threw 130-8 in the javelin and ran 5:26.14 in her first 1,500.
“I definitely go into each event shooting for as many points as I can,” Gray said. “Knowing yourself is a big deal, though. I know I’m not a sprinter or jumper, which most heptathletes are. I know I probably won’t move positions in the 200, but when it comes to shot put, I know this is where I need to get my points and move up in the rankings. Knowing where your strengths and weaknesses are is important, so you can have a solid plan.”
Gray's performance earned her an USATF Athlete of the Week honor for the first time, but she will now turn her focus back toward the heptathlon.
Though she can still compete in the decathlon in American events, women are still limited to the heptathlon in Olympic and world events, so Gray has laid out two sets of goals.
“The decathlon was a beast itself,” she said. “I have specific goals, like breaking 6,000 points in the heptathlon at the U.S. championships. It’s more so a thing I’ve been passionate about that I want to progress forward. I almost feel like I’m reverting back to the heptathlon. It’s a little bit less. It’s much easier. I, for sure, have my goals for that with the U.S. championships, but chasing the decathlon is a little bit of a separate path.”
No matter which path she pursues more, Gray said they end up a similar place. Her ultimate goal is to represent the U.S. at the Olympics, no matter what event she competes in.
“My goal is the 2024 Olympics for the heptathlon, but I want to have a spot on Team USA over the next couple years for international events and stuff,” Gray said. “Then, you just shoot for 2024 and the heptathlon, if they haven’t put the decathlon in yet.”