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Tetrathlon a four-legged monster

Event combines skill, endurance over two days

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If someone told you one of the most competitive events at the Manitoba Provincial High School Track and Field Championships is the tetrathlon, you'd probably say, "The what?"

The tetrathlon is a four-sport event split over two days that is composed of the 100 metres, the 800 metres, the long jump, and the shot put -- a multidimensional test of athleticism and endurance.

While some may be more familiar with the traditional Victorian tetrathlon, which consists of shooting, swimming, horseback riding and running, that is assuredly not what was happening at University Stadium Friday.

At the shot put portion of the varsity boys tetrathlon, Leighton Peters, a Grade 12 student from William Morton Collegiate in Gladstone, took his place in the throwing circle and began contorting his body into a throwing stance with the precision and grace of a ballet dancer. Once he let the steel ball fly, however, all images of ballet were replaced with a grunt of testosterone.

Peters has been competing in the tetrathlon for four years, and is accustomed to both the atmosphere of competition as well as training techniques.

"There's different ways to go about it," he said after launching his first warmup throw. "But basically you try and focus on your weakest event. My personal thing is endurance for the 800 metres. That's a good part of what I've focused on."

Peters is ranked in the top 10 for the province in tetrathlon, and accordingly, he expects to do well. His coach, Paul Koshel, shares his expectations.

"He was ranked sixth or seventh coming in," Koshel said. "So I'm hoping for a medal."

Koshel, 38, has trained Peters since he was in Grade 9, and placing well would mean a lot to both.

"Last year there a lot of great competitors, and it was a real eye-opener for Leighton," Koshel said. "But this is his last year. There aren't any excuses. He knows he really just has to put it all out there."

Easier said than done, however. In a tetrathlon, as Koshel stressed, "There is no room for error." In the shot put, for example, competitors are given three throws, and only the best is counted. If you step out of bounds while throwing, known as a fault, you squander that attempt. Same goes for the long jump -- if you step over the ever-threatening line, you lose a leap.

For scoring, all the events in the tetrathlon are translated into points. For example, Peters' best throw in the shot put, 9.13 metres, turned into 434 points. Brett Stovin, from Stonewall Collegiate, put up the best throw of the event, 12.28 metres, which resulted in 623 points. Although Peters didn't crack the top 10 in the shot put, Koshel isn't worried it will drastically affect his overall standing, as Peters makes his mark as a runner.

"Leighton's an extraordinarily fast runner," Koshel said. "In fact, at our zone meet, Leighton would have won the 100 metres if only he wasn't running it as part of the tetrathlon. The time he posted was better than any of the guys running it as a stand-alone event."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2011 C7

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