EHS graduate to be inducted to Maine Sports Hall of Fame

first_img Part 2: When the injury is inside your head, some “don’t get it” – July 26, 2016 Taylor VorthermsSports Editor at The Ellsworth AmericanTaylor Vortherms covers sports in Hancock County. The St. Louis, Missouri native recently graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism and joined The Ellsworth American in 2013. Latest Posts Bio Part 1: Invisible, incapacitating concussions are sidelining high school athletes – July 19, 2016center_img Latest posts by Taylor Vortherms (see all) GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Rob Pendergist donned his Maine state uniform for the 1988 National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, his father frowned at the sight.The knit fabric clung to Rob’s chest and bunched beneath the tank top’s undersized armholes.“That jersey is a little small,” Jim Pendergist said to his son, an Ellsworth High School junior at the time.Rob shrugged. The pair had just arrived at the University of Florida’s Percy Beard Track for his chance to compete among the country’s top high school athletes in the decathlon.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder text“I’m just happy to be here,” Rob responded. “I don’t give a damn if it’s small. As long as they spelled Maine right.”Rob won a silver medal that year at the championships sponsored by The Athletics Congress of the USA — the national governing body for track and field competition. His second-place performance helped him soar into national prominence, where his future track and field achievements kept him for the next decade.Now, at age 44, Rob has been selected as an inductee to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 2015 class.“It’s well deserved; he worked his butt off,” Jim said. “He was just so proud to represent the state of Maine.”Rob graduated from Ellsworth in 1989 after breaking numerous track and field records and winning state championships in the long jump, high jump, high hurdles and javelin as well as a national championship in the pentathlon.He went on to earn a full four-year athletic scholarship to Mount St. Mary’s College in Maryland, where he was an All-American in the decathlon and four-time pentathlon champion for the IC4A (Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of American). His career landed him in his college hall of fame in 2004.“He’s got some God-given talent,” Jim said. “He wouldn’t admit that, but it’s true.”Rob reached the pinnacle of his track and field career in 1992, when the 21-year-old decathlete qualified for the Olympic trials in New Orleans with a seventh-place finish in the NCAA Track and Field Championships.At 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, Rob was both the youngest and one of the smallest U.S. decathletes that year. He placed 17th of 32 contestants, falling short of making the Olympic team. Injuries such as a torn Achilles tendon and tendonitis thwarted his future shots at competing in the international games.“I took my potential all the way to its maximum capacity,” Rob said. “There was no getting any more out of this frame.”Rob credits one injury, however, with directing him toward his career as a decathlete.Four years prior to the trials, the EHS junior and member of the cross-country team had just completed a run when a car sped around the corner into the school’s parking lot.“They were joy riding,” Rob recalled. “They almost ran over me.”Rob dodged the vehicle but landed wrong on his foot, resulting in a sprained ankle. Suddenly, his running career was put on hold.“I couldn’t run with one leg,” he said. “So I started doing throwing events.”A Mount Desert Island High School indoor track and field coach named Dan Koch quickly noticed Rob’s potential. With a maximum number of events in which one athlete can participate, Koch introduced Rob to a way around those limits.“He asked me, ‘Have you ever heard of a decathlon?’” Rob recalls.His answer, Rob said, was “no.”The decathlon — patterned after the Greeks’ five-event pentathlon — involves 10 track and field events over two days: 100-meter run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and 1,500-meter run.Rob Pendergist, a Mount St. Mary’s College decathlete, competes in the 1991 Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania. PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM PENDERGISTRob had only competed in two decathlons before qualifying for the TAC-USA Junior Olympic National Championships, his first time competing at the national level. Along with his father, an Ellsworth American reporter named Tom Field accompanied Rob on his trip to Florida that July.Clad in an ill-fitting uniform and equipped with minimal decathlon experience, Rob stumbled through some of his middle events. He slipped as low as sixth among 23 competitors, but a first-place javelin throw put him back into medal contention.To solidify his position among the top three decathletes, he needed a strong performance in the final event: the 1,500-meter run.Field documented the hours leading up to the race: Rob calmly sat in the bleachers, discussing baseball and the upcoming school year. Jim anxiously figured the time and points necessary to overcome destined gold medalist James Milton and then-third place Willie Andrews.“His father told him he needed a big race, that he had to run in 4:25 or better,” Field wrote in an EA article. “Rob nodded, maybe ever shrugged. Then he went out and ran the race of his life.”At the gunshot, Rob began the heat in eighth place of nine runners, with Andrews and Milton leading the pack. Steadily, Rob overtook runner after runner and reached second with less than a lap to go.“It continues to be Andrews in front, with Milton now in third,” said the track announcer, overlooking the movement of Rob.But he couldn’t ignore Rob once he’d passed by Andrews.“That’s Robert Pendergist of Ellsworth, Maine, now out in front,” the announcer said.And Rob stayed in front.“Not by necks, not by lengths, but by meters,” Field wrote. “Then to the cheers of the crowd and frenzied delight of his father, Pendergist rolled across the finish line.”He’d won the race with a personal-best time of 4:23.86 seconds — seven seconds better than any of his previous 1,500-meter races and 13 seconds ahead of any other decathlete.“He may have earned only a silver medal, but it was a gold medal performance that clinched it,” Field wrote. “It won’t be forgotten.”To this day, Rob holds state high school outdoor track records in the javelin throw, which he set with a distance of 210 feet and 9 inches as well as two indoor track records in the high jump and long jump, with distances of 6-07 and 22-07.25.In 1989, Rob was named the Gatorade Player of the Year. Shortly after, his Ellsworth track and field jersey was retired.Rob, a father of three, now works as a financial planner in New Jersey by the shore.But Rob said no home could replace his first — a community that always supported him and where he’s still known as “Robby.”“Maine is very special,” Rob said. “It’s an amazing place to be from and tell people it’s where you were born and raised. I’m very proud of it.”Rob is one of nine athletes who have been selected for Maine’s hall of fame this year. The others include William Alfond, Peter Carlisle, Glenn Dumont, Anna Goodale, Roger Levesque, Marcie Lane Schulenberg, Eric Weinrich and Amy Winchester.They will be inducted on May 3 at the Augusta Civic Center.“I’m honored,” Rob said. “It’s an unbelievable thing for someone to place my name in indelible ink in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.” EHS names new boys’ soccer coach – July 13, 2016last_img

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