An invitation to the New Balance national track and field meet is a lifetime achievement for a number of high school athletes.
Earning All-American honors? Or capturing a national title? Likely, an unattainable goal.
Pembroke High senior Kris Horn set his goals a bit higher.
So after he returned from New York earlier this month as a two-time All-American for running a leg for the distance medley relay squad, which finished fifth, and placing fifth in the pentathlon, he was a bit disappointed.
“I really wanted to win,’’ said Horn of his performance in the pentathlon, which indoors consists of five events (60-meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 1,000 meters). “I was looking forward to it. After the hurdles and the long jump, I was in second place, so I had a shot at it, but I ended up blowing it in the high jump, and lost it from there.’’
The senior captain knows he could have done better. He owns the school record in the high jump (6 feet, 1 inch), along with 10 other individual marks, ranging from the triple jump and long jump, to 55-meter hurdles and the 300-meter dash.
“He’s very quiet, but he prides himself on now owning basically every sprinting record in this school,’’ said Pembroke assistant coach Brian Yeaton.
“He came in second place in the state in the long jump this year and it really aggravated him a lot. He came in fifth place in the country in the pentathlon this winter, and it bothered him a lot. He’s a kid who doesn’t like to come in second place at all.’’
Horn, however, has used his performance in the pentathlon as fuel to motivate him for his real passion, the decathlon, and its exhaustive 10 events (100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500 meters) that challenge the most well-rounded athlete.
His goal this spring: a trip to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals to put his skills on display against the best high school athletes in the nation.
“I always hated doing a single event,’’ said Horn. “I’ve always preferred multiple events, so when I learned I could do the decathlon, I was ecstatic.’’
In many ways, Horn was born to be a decathlete.
He has the genes: his father, Ken, was a three-time letter winner (1977-79) as linebacker for the University of Massachusetts Amherst football program.
He has the physical tools: the first time the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Horn picked up the javelin, according to Yeaton, he broke the school record.
And he certainly has the desire.
“Kris is the first to practice and by far the last one to leave,’’ said Pembroke coach James Rooney.
“My wife gets mad at me because I come home at 7 and I had to wait for Kris to come out of the weight room.’’
As a sophomore, Horn placed third in his first decathlon at the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association meet with 5,586 points. Ever since, Horn has been taking aim at the record book.
“Physically he’s maybe the best track athlete that’s ever come out of the state,’’ said Yeaton. “He’s just a freak of nature.’’
Early last spring, Horn strained his hip flexor, one he freely admits he should have tended to sooner. The injury sidelined him for most of the spring season, limiting the amount of physical activity he could do with his lower body.
He returned to his normal routine only a month before the spring state meet. Even with the limited practice time, Horn piled up 6,299 points in the decathlon, the best score in state history.
His fantastic showing in the state competition could only take him so far, however. He had not yet mastered the pole vault, so he did not compete at nationals.
He now travels to Harvard two nights per week to work with Crimson assistant coach Brenner Abbott on his pole vaulting skills.
Last fall, Horn chose to run cross-country, rather than soccer, to build up his endurance for the decathlon. He also worked out at a gym in Hingham, where Yeaton is the general manager, and by the start of the indoor track season, has tacked on 15 pounds of muscle.
“We had a thing going at Brian’s gym in the offseason that anything that you could do more than Kris Horn, Kris Horn would beat you the next day,’’ said Pembroke teammate Sean MacRae. “I think that the competitive drive and the will that he has to succeed is probably the most of anyone I’ve ever met, simply because he goes in and he doesn’t want to lose.’’
Horn considered both Clemson and the University of Connecticut for his college choice, but will attend UConn on a full scholarship, competing for one of the top decathlon programs in the country. The Huskies recently added alum Will Thomas to work with their decathletes.
Horn admits that his ultimate goal is to compete in the Olympics. He knows attending UConn is another step toward achieving that goal, and is excited to begin his work at Storrs this fall.
“I don’t know what an Olympic athlete looks like in high school,because I haven’t seen one. But if the kid puts up numbers like he did in his junior year, he should just keep getting better,’’ said MacRae.
“He’s going to do crazy things. I think the sky’s the limit for Kris because if he works [hard], which he does anyway, he can pretty much do whatever he wants.’’
And Horn leaves no doubt that he wants to perform on the grandest stage.
Andrew MacDougall can be reached at email@example.com.