Sategna to lead USA squad in Thorpe Cup Team Decathlon competition
Aug. 6, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- As far as decathletes go, few in the world are more decorated right now than Trey Hardee. The former Texas standout just won the decathlon in the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships, competed in the Olympics last summer and still owns the NCAA record in the event.
But some of Hardee's most vivid memories from college involve being schooled by coach Mario Sategna.
"Early on, I struggled with the javelin, and sometimes in practice, Mario would just stand out there on the track and throw barefoot," Hardee says. "Even then he would destroy me."
And that's one of the advantages of being a Sategna pupil. The accomplished coach -- Sategna was recently promoted to associate head coach of the Texas Men's Track and Field program -- was also an accomplished decathlete.
This weekend, he's the head coach for the USA Decathlon Delegation competing in Germany in the 2009 Thorpe Cup, and Sategna still holds the competition's pole vault record.
"He's such an easy guy to learn from because he's been there and done that," Hardee says. "He's got the experience and tons of knowledge. You can put trust in him and his training program, because he understands what it feels like."
Sategna is in his sixth season with the Longhorns, and still boasts a muscled build that illustrates Hardee's barefoot-throwing memories. But Sategna says his teaching philosophy isn't rooted in his performance, or experiences. Instead, he has an understanding of each event, and has a willingness to adapt to the individual athlete.
"You just try to evolve and look for new ideas," Sategna says. "As a decathlete, I've had a background in a lot of different event areas. I can relate to a pole vaulter, I can relate to a thrower, I can relate to what it feels like to run a 1,500."
Coaching has been in Sategna's life from the very beginning. His father is a high school track coach and athletic director, and his mom is a volleyball coach. During volleyball seasons as a kid, Sategna spent his afternoons in the gym, but only used volleyballs to shoot baskets and kick field goals over the nets.
"Track was always my thing," Sategna says.
He became a three-time All-American at LSU and won the 1995 NCAA title in the decathlon. His personal-best total of 8,172 still stands as the LSU school record, and ranks him as the 10th-best performer in NCAA history. Because of that unique understanding of competition, Sategna works with his athletes on technical fundamentals paired with a patient mental approach.
"They're all ultra-competitors, and when things don't come easily to them, that's my job to make sure they don't go off the deep end," Sategna says. "I want them to find joy in consistency, and build off that plateau."
That was Sategna's approach with Hardee and the javelin, and Hardee recently rejoiced when he passed Sategna's PR in the event.
"Mario has a strong background in all event areas, and he's done a great job of relaying that info to our athletes," Texas head coach Bubba Thornton says. "The guys really enjoy being around him because of his enthusiasm and you see that in their performances. I think he's one of the best young coaches in the country."