Mount-ing success Decathletes Hytten, Pendergist carry on St. Mary's tradition


PHILADELPHIA -- The 97th Penn Relays began in typical fashion, with temperatures in the low 50s and a late afternoon rain mucking things up.

Just right for a couple of guys from Norway and Maine.

Even Hytten, a post-graduate from Tonsberg, Norway, and Rob Pendergist, a 20-year-old sophomore from Ellsworth, Maine, re-established Mount St. Mary's as a power in the decathlon, as they finished 1-2 in the Penn Relays in and around Franklin Field. It marked the sixth time in the last 11 years a Mount man had won the event here, and the first 1-2 finish by any school since the Mountaineers' Rob Motti and Robert Ekpete did the trick in 1985.

Hytten trailed Pendergist after six events, but grabbed a lead he never lost with a heave of 154-3 in the discus. It was one of three personal bests he posted yesterday, and his score of 7,366 points was also a career mark. On day one, he was tops in the shot put, 43-11 3/4 , and 100, 11.19 seconds.

Pendergist made up ground in the pole vault, 12-11 1/2 ; javelin, 183-2; and 1,500, 4:31.26, but he couldn't make up the 218-point swing in the discus. He still seemed pleased with his score of 7,322, perhaps because he lost to his training partner who also happened to be his roommate here.

Hytten was a junior champion in Norway and the latest in a long line of decathletes Mount coach Jim Deegan has recruited from that country. The Penn Relays roll call also lists Knut Gundersen (1988), Robert Ekpete (1986) and Gudmund Olsen (1981) as champions from the Mount.

Yesterday's was the first decathlon Hytten had completed since 1988, when an assortment of injuries forced him out of the Penn Relays and NCAA Division II championships.

"Before I came to the U.S., I never had injuries," Hytten said. "I had ankle surgery in February 1990, so it feels great to come back."

Hytten wasn't idle the last two years, as he played soccer for Deegan. He led the Mountaineers with 12 goals last fall, and was a South Atlantic Region all-star. He's a full-time decathlete again, and hopeful of representing Norway in the world championships this year and at the 1992 Olympics. Gundersen, now studying at Sacramento State, is one of the obstacles there.

If Pendergist had come along a decade earlier, he'd be a possibility to represent the United States next year. The U.S. suffered in the decathlon following Bruce Jenner's reign, but last year a record nine Americans exceeded 8,000 points. Pendergist led the nation's freshmen with a best of 7,451.

"Rob is the best American prospect I've ever had, absolutely," Deegan said. "Other than Bill Motti [fifth at the 1984 Olympics], he's better than the internationals we've recruited too."

Pendergist's first track meet came in 1987, after he quit the Ellsworth High baseball team and briefly tried tennis. Deegan wishes Pendergist (6-1, 165) were two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, but the coach knows he's still developing.

"Decathletes don't peak until their mid-to late-20s," Deegan said. "Getting technically sound in 10 events is something you just can't hurry. There's nothing you can do in the shot, discus and javelin until you grow up."

Pendergist knows that Emmitsburg is a pretty good place to grow, as Mount men have posted more 7,000-point scores, 114 as of yesterday, than any other U.S. college.

"You can make it [Mount St. Mary's] whatever you want athletically," Pendergist said.

He had never heard of the place until March 1989. The national scholastic championships were staged at Navy that year, and after winning the pentathlon in Annapolis, Pendergist visited the Mount. One of his guides was Laurie Smith, a junior who took third in the women's pentathlon yesterday. Her 4,941 points were a personal best, but well behind the 5,648 of George Mason freshman Diane Guthrie.

High school girls and college women take over Franklin Field today. Locally, Westminster's Stephanie Morningstar made the field in the girls' 1,500, Fallston's Jenny Howard is in the 3,000, and Dulaney's Amanda White is listed in both but will run only one.

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