Wichita State senior Austin Bahner won the long jump, shot put and 60-meter dash on the first day of Missouri Valley Conference indoor meet and led the heptathlon.
He didn’t finish. Two weeks later, he got through the first day of the heptathlon at the NCAA Championships before his uncooperative right hamstring tightened up again and forced him to the sidelines.
Bahner is the MVC’s best multi-athlete, and one of the nation’s best, when healthy. He ranks 15th nationally in the decathlon with a score of 7,331 points as he prepares for MVC outdoor meet starting Friday in Carbondale, Ill. After weeks of improvement since the indoor meets, the hamstring pain arose again during a practice in early May.
“I’ve only had one meet where I went all out, and it went really well,” he said. “We’re trying to keep it as healthy as it can be right now and hope for the best at conference.”
Bahner, who finished second at last season’s MVC meet and 10th at the NCAA Outdoor (with a school record of 7,847), wants to push his score up to around 7,450. While his current total might be good enough to keep him in the top 24 nationally, closing in on 7,500 will make him feel more confident about qualifying for the NCAA meet June 11-14 in Oregon.
“That should be very doable,” WSU coach Steve Rainbolt said. “All he’s got to do, in my opinion, is get through one. He should be in better shape.”
Bahner also wants to stay healthy and working toward a peak for the USA Championships, which he is already qualified for, in late June in Sacramento, Calif. If he finishes in the top five, he will qualify for a second time on the USA’s Thorpe Cup team, which will travel to Germany to compete in a dual meet against the Germans. Bahner finished seventh with 7,051 points last summer.
His workouts consist of swimming, bikes and elliptical training. He can work on his throws, as long as he is pain-free.
“I don’t feel like I’m too much out of shape,” he said. “As long as I can maintain that, I feel like I’m ready to go. I’ve been doing it long enough, I know how it goes.”
Around 75 athletes are expected to attend and some of the activities will be aired on ESPNU and ESPN2. NBA teams will measure height (with and without shoes) and weight, wingspan, body fat and standing reach. Early has been in Del Ray, Fla., the past three weeks preparing with other NBA hopefuls such as Florida’s Casey Prather.
“I’ve been working on corner threes, NBA threes, lots of stuff off the ball,” Early said.
Early, a 6-foot-8 forward, is projected as the No. 29 pick (Oklahoma City) in the June 26 draft by draftexpress.com. NBADraft.net has him No. 23 (Utah) in its mock draft.
“I’m very eager,” he said. “It’s not the best feeling sitting there watching every day.”
Mucha injured his leg on Feb. 22 against George Mason, the result of a collision in the outfield. He played five games and went 5 for 14 (.357) before the injury.
Last week, he started working his legs in the weight room and did side-to-side agility drills for the first time.
“There’s still some weak point in my leg, and that’s what we’re trying to get rid of before we call it 100 percent,” he said.
WSU set team records for batting average (.314 replacing .305), slugging percentage (.492 replacing .446), home runs (56 replacing 52), runs (314 replacing 293), RBIs (291 replacing 268) and total bases (740 replacing 710).
First baseman Cacy Williams, named Valley MVP and Newcomer of the Year, set the school home run record with 16.