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HALL of FAME: Multi-talented Pentathlete Bryan enters RLC Hall of Fame as Champion
The 13th Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 24, in the RLC Student Center.
By Bob Kelley, retired RLC Sports Information Director and 2012 Hall of Fame inductee
INA, Ill. - In his first appearance in a National Junior College Athletic Association Championship Meet, in the very first event of the competition, Rend Lake College Freshman Tommy Bryan III stole the show.
The muscular, 6-foot-4 athlete from Centralia was declared an Indoor Track and Field National Champion from the get-go.
Bryan was a three-time All-American before his Juco career was over, but never again a National Champion, despite overwhelming a field of 15 others and coming close to erasing what many thought was a record that would never be broken in his initial try.
But do not call Tommy Bryan III a one-hit wonder. Far from it.
Bryan was the best Pentathlete in Rend Lake College history. It is not even close.
He tallied 3,723 points in five events – High Jump, Long Jump, Shot Put, 60-Meter Hurdles and 1000M Run – en route to victory in March 2006 before any of his Warrior teammates had even had a chance to take center stage on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan.
No other RLC Pentathlete before or since has come within 1,000 points of Bryan’s combined effort.
Two individuals tied for second behind Bryan in Kansas, but it wasn’t even close. They were 200 points behind. His point total, at the time of its execution, rated No. 2 all-time behind the “unbeatable” record.
Bryan was the lone competitor to finish in the top five of each Pentathlon event. He won the High Jump at 2.04 meters (6 feet 8.25 inches), six inches higher than the Pentathlon High Jump runner-up, and a height valued at 840 points of his grand total. He was third in the Shot Put (11.39M / 37-4.5), fourth in both the Long Jump (6.60M/21-8) and 1000M Run (2:46.64) and fifth in the 60M Hurdles (:08.79).
Bryan’s achievement also earned him a permanent place in the RLC Sports Hall of Fame. He will be inducted, along with three other NJCAA Track and Field individual champs and three National Championship Relay Teams, on Saturday, March 24, in the 13th ceremonies since the Hall’s creation in 2000.
His sterling, opening day performance sparked Rend Lake College representatives to three more national titles, a couple of second-place finishes and a runner-up showing as a team behind eight-time defending champion Barton County Community College (KS).
As a sophomore, Bryan was nagged by minor injuries and other distractions off the track and some bad luck on it yet still managed to place fifth as the defending champion in the 2007 Indoor Pentathlon and seventh two months later in the Outdoor High Jump.
“He was a good athlete but not necessarily a great athlete. It was his attitude and hard work that made him what he was,”commented Coach Brent McLain. ”He was a big ol’ kid, strong, who had the kind of overall talent needed to do well in all five events in the Pentathlon.
“He worked super hard, and he was a tough competitor.”
“What I remember best,” McLain recalled Bryan’s first Indoor Finals, “once that first event was over, we both had big smiles on our faces. He had done so well, and he still had the High Jump and Long Jump – two of his best events – coming up. We knew he was going to have a great meet.”
The Indoor Pentathlon was made for Bryan, with a previously untried skill like throwing the shot put simple to learn for a tall fellow with strong arms and legs. The Outdoor Decathlon – a two-day, 10-event test of skill and will – was more of a challenge because of the Pole Vault; few athletes his size can learn late and then have success in that specialty.
Personal Records (PRs) by the all-around standout still rank among the Warriors’ all-time finest – Indoor: High Jump, 6-9.75 (No. 4); 55M Hurdles, :08.01 (6th); 60M Hurdles, :08.85 (8th); Long Jump, 22-7.75 (8th); Triple Jump, 42-5.25 (10th); Shot Put, 37-4.5 (10th). Outdoor: High Jump, 2.05M / 6-8.75 (4th); 400M Hurdles, :55.82 (7th); Triple Jump, 13.68M / 44-10.75 (8th); 110M Hurdles,:16.0 (10th).