Shawn Schmidt: Right on track
Learning, as we all know, certainly does not take place solely in a classroom. We learn just as much from the experiences we have, as we go through this journey called life, in addition to the technical information taught in school or at practice.
This concept definitely holds true for true freshman Shawn Schmidt (Plano, Texas). As one of the newest additions to the University of Texas men's track and field team, the 6-4 United States junior national decathlon champion has experience on both the national and international level and has come to the realization that there is still so much to learn.
The Track and Field News All-American began competing in decathlons during high school while he attended St. Mark's School of Texas. Schmidt started his career by learning the high jump and from there progressed into other events.
"My coach was a decathlete in college and saw the potential in me," said the five-time Southwest Preparatory Conference Champion. "I slowly picked a couple events here and there and I finally put it all together and did well."
Schmidt ended up being a natural; he was one of the top track athletes in the region and graduated high school as the state of Texas decathlete record holder. He went on to compete in the 2006 Junior USA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships where he dominated the competition and captured the title as America's top junior decathlete.
Schmidt earned his first trip out of the country as the American representative in the combined events at the 2006 International Association of Athletics Federations in Beijing, China. Although he finished in 19th place, Schmidt admitted using the increased level of competition and overall situation as a great learning experience.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself being injured going into the competition so I didn't feel very well prepared," said Schmidt. "I didn't do as well as I would have liked. I did made the best of it and had a great time there."
Following his trip overseas, Schmidt returned to Texas and almost immediately moved to Austin for his first year of college. He quickly came to the realization that life of the Forty Acres was not going to be a walk in the park. In addition to his prerequisite classes for the chemical engineering program, Schmidt spent up to four or five hours at practice.
"College definitely proved to be a lot different than high school," explained Schmidt, "I would say I adjusted pretty well. There's a learning curve at first when you have to figure out how to balance school and athletics. I'm used to training this much during the summer but training this much, in addition to going to school, was a challenge at first but I have it down now."
Schmidt was able to get through his first semester without a hitch and competed in his first collegiate decathlon, the New Mexico Multi Event-Meet, where he placed fifth behind teammates, automatic qualifier and meet winner Donovan Kilmartin and All-Big 12 honoree Andrew Webb.
"Competing in Albuquerque was definitely a good experience since it was my first college meet," said Schmidt. "It was humbling for me and showed me what level the bar is set at and the amount of work I have to do."
Lucky for Schmidt, not only is he a member of one of the best programs in the nation, led by Texas head coach Bubba Thornton, he is also training with two of the most decorated decathletes in the nation in NCAA heptathlon and decathlon collegiate record holder Trey Hardee and two-time NCAA national champion and five-time All-American Donovan Kilmartin.
"They were actually a big influence on why I chose UT," described Schmidt. "Both approach athletics in very different ways, and I've been able to gain so much from training with the two of them. I feel like I'm definitely in good hands."
Now, as the indoor track season is underway, Schmidt anticipates upcoming meets as a way to show the world what he has learned and prove himself to his team as a top collegiate decathlete.