Tim Wunderlich is no stranger to the spotlight.
From discus and pole vault state championships at North Carroll High School, to an Ivy League title in the decathlon at Dartmouth University, his track and field resume is extensive. Wunderlich is likely considered a veteran of the sport at age 31, but he has continued his career far past his collegiate days.
Wunderlich finished sixth in the decathlon at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, last weekend.
The decathlon consists of 10 events — the 100- and 400-meter dashes, 110 hurdles, 1,500 run, discus, high jump, javelin, long jump, pole vault, and shot put.
Points are awarded for placement in each event, and the USATF decathlon took place Thursday and Friday. Wunderlich, competing for Shore Athletic Club, finished with 7,289 points; 25-year-old Zach Ziemek (Wisconsin/adidas) won with 8,294 points.
Among athletes from Stanford, Liberty, Michigan, Arkansas, Rice, and Cincinnati was a familiar face. Benjamin Ose, a rising senior for Dartmouth’s men’s track team, competed against Wunderlich. It’s believed to be the first time in USATF championship history a coach and athlete duo have faced each other in the same event.
“It was memorable for me just kind of competing alongside him in that field, in that kind of venue,” Wunderlich said.
Wunderlich, who helped Ose earn second-team All-America honors at the NCAA championships in early June, bested his pupil — Ose finished 11th at the USATF meet, but Wunderlich said there’s no real rivalry between the two.
It’s quite the opposite, he said.
“We’re in there together,” Wunderlich said. “The good thing about decathletes is that there’s a camaraderie … during the two-day competition…we work together, we help each other out and we kind of perform like teammates.”
Competing isn’t a full-time gig for Wunderlich. He started as a volunteer assistant for Johns Hopkins University in 2009 and worked his way up through the coaching ranks. Wunderlich spent time as a graduate assistant at University of Central Missouri, and an assistant at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been coaching jumpers and multi-event athletes for Dartmouth since 2014.
While still contending on his own, Wunderlich said it’s a constant balance between coaching and competing. But the Hanover, New Hampshire, resident said he still remains a coach every step of the way.
“My first priority is my job [and] my coaching,” he said. “When I get the chance to compete, I try to take advantage of it whenever I can.”
Wunderlich’s top performance last weekend came with a first-place finish in the javelin throw (203 feet, 7 inches). He also took third place in the shot put (44-9.75) and fifth in the discus (141-10).
A strong second day helped propel him up the leaderboard into a top-10 finish. And as the sport continues to become more grueling, Wunderlich attributed his success to not only keeping a balanced training regimen physically but also mentally.
“Having gone through so many meets and so much training, mentally knowing how to approach competition a little bit better… is kind of an advantage of a long career,” he said. “A lot of that is experience and knowing that it’s not over till it’s over… and grinding it out.”
The ultimate goal still remains the same for Wunderlich — a chance to qualify for 2020 Olympic Trials in Atlanta, which is still a realistic belief in his eyes.
Wunderlich said he has qualified to compete in the 2018 Thorpe Cup for a second straight year. The annual competition between the USA and Germany consists of the heptathlon and decathlon, and takes place July 27-28 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.