Bryan Clay held the Hawaiian flag after winning the decathlon event at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Sacramento, Calif.

Isle Olympian

A 1998 Castle grad will represent
the United States in the decathlon

Bryan Clay's extended family numbered around 50 yesterday in Sacramento, Calif. That throng will grow exponentially in the coming weeks as the Olympics approach and the rest of the nation and the world get to know the Castle High School graduate.

With fans wearing aloha-print T-shirts with "Bryan's Ohana" on the backs cheering him on yesterday, Clay became the first decathlete from Hawaii to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.

He will contend for the unofficial title of "world's greatest athlete" at the Athens Games on Aug. 23 and 24.

Most observers expected him to finish second or third in the trials. But Clay won the 10-event test of speed, strength, agility and endurance by catching and passing defending world champion Tom Pappas in 90-degree heat.

"It was great to have a pretty decent crowd," Clay said in a phone interview with the Star-Bulletin, as he prepared for a celebration dinner with his ohana. "It's been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work to get to this point. Now we have six weeks to iron things out."

Clay scored a personal-record 8,660 points to 8,517 for Pappas. They, along with third-place finisher Paul Terek, will represent the U.S. in Athens.

"I'm happy with my score, it was a big PR (personal record) for me," Clay said at a post-event news conference. "I think there were a lot more points left out there. If you look at my indoor score, that alone should tell you I'm a contender. I think I'm going to give Tom (Pappas) and (world-record holder) Roman (Sebrle) a run for their money."

Pappas led Clay by three points after the first five events, held Friday.

Clay competed in the pole vault competition yesterday.

After the two earned equal points in the 110 hurdles, Clay took over first in yesterday's second event, the discus. Clay threw it 170 feet, 11 inches. He expanded his lead by outdoing Pappas in the pole vault (16 feet, 834 inches) and the javelin (224 feet, 3 inches).

Clay ran a slow time of 5:06.18 in the 1,500 meters, the last event, but still finished ahead by a comfortable margin.

"The main concern was getting on the team," Clay said. "Running (the 1,500) fast was the last thing on my mind."

Clay became the first athlete from Hawaii to make the U.S. Olympic track and field team since Punahou graduate Henry Marsh, a steeplechaser, did so in 1988.

Duncan Macdonald, a 5,000-meter runner who graduated from Kailua, also made the team in 1976.

Neither medaled, though Marsh finished fourth in the steeplechase in the 1984 Games.

Macdonald and his family were among those cheering for Clay at the trials. Clay's high school coach, Martin Hee, and Hee's wife, Joyce, were also among the supporters.

"This was a special moment for the people of Hawaii, the Kaneohe community and all of Hawaii's athletes," Hee said. "Bryan's a great role model for the whole state, not just track runners and track fans. It's a major breakthrough."

Clay, 24, was born in Austin, Texas. He moved to Hawaii when he was 5. He graduated in 1998 from Castle, where he captured numerous state championships in track and field.

Clay, the 2004 World Indoors decathlon silver medalist, a 1998 Castle High School grad, threw the discus during the decathlon discus throw at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Sacramento, Calif., yesterday.

He still holds state-meet records in the 100 meters, 110 hurdles, 200 meters and long jump.

Clay began seriously doing the decathlon -- which includes the 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and 1,500 meters -- at Azusa Pacific University, a small NAIA college that has produced several outstanding decathletes, including 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Dave Johnson.

"I grew up in Hawaii. I'm half-Japanese, half-African American," Clay said yesterday. "My dad lives in Florida, my mom lives in Hawaii. I went to Azusa Pacific -- a small Christian school -- so my faith and my walk with God is very important to me. I just try to keep my priorities in check, and when I've got that stuff in check, the athletic stuff just comes around. So that's kind of me in a nutshell."

Clay trains and competes on the mainland and rarely has time to return to the islands. He married Sarah Smith of Seattle recently, and the last time he was in Hawaii was on their honeymoon.

But if there were any doubts about where Clay considers home, they were eliminated yesterday when he wrapped a Hawaiian flag around himself after his victory. The flag was brought to the meet by his trainer, Calan Cavosos, who is also from Hawaii.

It was soon joined by an American flag. One was draped over each shoulder.

"Got to represent," Clay said.

Will the Hawaiian flag find its way to Athens?

"Definitely," Clay said.

Star-Bulletin reporter Dave Reardon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Athens 2004 Olympics

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