By REID TUCKER
A silver medal at the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympic Games ranked Gabe Moore as the highest-scoring intermediate-age decathlete in Florida history and third-best nationally in 2012 among all ages.
A scant eight points was all that separated Moore, a multi-sport Freeport High School athlete, from first-place finisher Harrison Williams of Memphis, Tenn., at the two-day event, held over the weekend of July 28-29 in Houston, Texas. Moore led the field of 18 after seven of 10 events, but Williams surged forward in the pole vault, leaving Moore down two to his rival. Going into the final event, the 1,500-meter run, Moore was again in the lead and looked sure to take gold, but he stumbled some eight meters from the finish line, allowing Williams to overtake him for the overall win with 6,400 points to Moore’s 6,393.
Moore, still ecstatic the day after the return trip, if still very tired and sore, said finishing second did not wound his pride in the slightest. If anything, the fact he was so close to the top of the podium even after a few setbacks proves that victory is indeed something to look forward to at future events, even at the very highest level of competition. He was gunning for the win right up until the moment when he collapsed, crawling across the finish line in fourth place, 7 seconds down from the Williams, who finished second.
“I was just trying to run as fast as I could and my legs just gave out on me,” Moore said. “It was pretty crazy, the whole weekend, thinking ‘I can do this. I can really win this thing.’ The whole experience was awesome. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but it was a lot of fun.”
Moore finished first in five of the decathlon’s 10 events, including the 100-meter dash (11.51 seconds), the 400 dash (50.93), the long jump (20-10 3/4), the shot-put (43-01) and the discus (122-03). He finished second in the javelin throw (148-08) and the high jump (5-11 ½), tied for third place in the pole vault (10-11 ¾), and he finished fourth in both the 110-meter hurdles (16.46) and the 1,500 (4:48.32). His cumulative score of 6,393 represented a substantial improvement over his previous best score of 5,976, already the highest in Florida by under-18 athletes, which he earned at a national qualifier event in Orlando earlier in the month.
Willie Parker, Moore’s private track coach, said the decathlon had the best level of competition he’d ever seen in decades of involvement with the sport. Like his young trainee, Parker was not dissatisfied with the outcome of the meet as Moore and Williams more or less had their run of the field, with the third-place finisher ending up well back at 6,013 points. What most encouraged Parker is that Moore, who posts numbers on par with Division 1 collegiate athletes, has only been training for competition in the decathlon for three or so months, with the best still likely to come.
“I told him you don’t always have to win to be a winner,” he said. “Sometimes this is how the real winning starts, with these almost-wins. Gabe put everything out there. You don’t often see that kind of determination in athletes his age. I’m very proud of him, and what he’s accomplished in such a short amount of time is astonishing. If he keeps up like this he’ll be able to go [to whatever university] he wants. After this past weekend, people know the name ‘Gabe Moore.’”
As for Moore himself, he’s looking forward to a little downtime after a busy summer of meets on the road and the day-in-day-out grind of practice. Next up for Moore, who will start his junior year at Freeport when school starts back in a few weeks, is a spate of indoor meets early next year, including the AAU Nationals in February and the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March. Until then, he’ll keep training and keep looking forward to the chance to have another go at Williams and other top decathletes from around the country. “I’m sure I’ll see a lot of them again at meets down the road,” Moore said. “I’ll get them next time.”
Full results of the 2012 AAU Junior Olympic Games can be found at http://image.aausports.org/sports/athletics/results/2012/jogames/complete.htm.