Norwegian track athlete aspires for multi record


Senior long jumper aims high, or far, for decathlon NSIC championships this Sunday and Monday




One Norwegian. Two days. 10 events. The 100-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin throw and 1,500-meter run. Henrik Holmberg is a decathlete.

Augustana senior Holmberg’s home may be in Norway, but while in the U.S., he has found his home on the track.

The decathlon is an event where some say the “World’s Greatest Athlete” can emerge. It takes a talented individual to compete at a high level for all 10 events. Holmberg has a chance to show his talents for Augustana, Norway and most importantly, for his hometown, Vik.

His hometown, Vik, located five hours west of Oslo, has a population of 2,800 living in the small mountainous city. It is a city known for a brand of cheese, but Holmberg calls it home. Wanting change and adventure, the 20-year-old hoped to mix school, track and the chance to travel by deciding to see what the U.S. had to offer. In the fall of 2009, Holmberg came to Augustana for his first time on American soil.

When Holmberg returned home to Vik after the semester in 2010, he continued high jump and his schooling. Over the summer he played on his club soccer team, but there was still the urge to return to America.

His first stay had only lasted for a semester, and in the fall of 2011, Holmberg came back. The fall was not long enough and left him wanting to return. He continued with his track career in the U.S., and, after much coaxing and convincing from his former coach Jim Vahrenkamp, it was time to take his track career beyond sprints and high jump.

Holmberg made the decision to become a decathlete. Vahrenkamp, who was a previous decathlete, saw the potential the six-foot-four Henrik had and encouraged him to try the new event.

Jake Pohlmann, senior pole-vaulter and teammate, was a decathlete at the time when Holmberg made the decision to switch. “Henrik is the hardest working and most naturally talented athlete,” says Pohlmann. “He is a joy to be around and does not let one bad event get him down. He stays positive and moves on to the next event.”

It may seem Holmberg has it all figured out now, but he had quite the time becoming comfortable with all of the events.

“When I first picked up the shot put, never even thrown it in high school, I hated it. I thought this was never going to work,” says Holmberg.

His 2011- 2012 season brought obstacles. Over the year Holmberg had injuries. He pulled his hamstring twice and was out for the entire outdoor season. During the 2012 summer, Holmberg, recovered, won a silver medal in high jump at the Norwegian National Championships.

In November of 2012, injuries struck again with a bulging disc. Holmberg was unable to practice or compete for a month and a half. It was difficult to be patient, but he knew it was important to recover slowly and not push too hard.

This last March, with braids in his hair and overcoming the disc injury, Holmberg finished eighth in the heptathlon for the indoor nationals for Division II. The seven events he competed in were 60-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and 1,000-meter run. He scored a total of 5,176 points in Birmingham, Ala. and won All-America Honors.

Nevertheless, Holmberg has the goal of breaking the Augustana decathlete record of 7,111 points. If Holmberg is able to break the record, he says it has the possibility to stay for years because decathlon athletes do not come around very often.

“Henrik is a student of the sport. He doesn’t just go and do the practices, he asks why,” says assistant track coach Greg Binstock.

Holmberg has his goals set high on breaking the Augustana record. “If I can put together average results in all of my events, it can happen. It is hard to say because there are so many factors, but I should be able to.”

At the Bryan Clay Invitational on April 20, Holmberg provisionally qualified for nationals in the long jump. Before the jump, he pushed back his headband, took a deep breath, his eyes filled with determination. With a solid jump of 7.3 meters, he placed second, just 0.01 meter behind the leader.

Bryan Clay, an Olympic gold medalist decathlete, was in attendance. With a grin from side to side, Holmberg did not pass up on the opportunity to catch a picture.

Holmberg’s current goal is not just to make it to nationals. It is beyond that. He wants to compete with some of the best competition. His drive is not to beat anyone, but to beat his own records.

Holmberg says, “The feeling you get when everything comes together is my drive. The technique, the flow from one event to the other and the physical edge to put it all together. Nationals is my goal for my collegiate career. The European National Championships.”

One thing is for sure, this young athlete puts the Vik in Vikings.