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From documenting run groups like Tinman Elite and the Bowerman Track Club to shooting the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta last February, Cortney White is one of the most passionate and connected photographers in the running space.
One of the many events that have taken place so far at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, was the men’s decathlon. In this two-day event, 18 athletes competed in 10 events: the 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and the 1500-meter run.
The overall points winner, Garrett Scantling, earned 8,647 points, a personal best, and guaranteed a spot at the Tokyo Olympics this July. Joining him on Team USA is Steven Bastien (8,485 points) and Zach Ziemek (8,471 points).
We asked White to select some of her favorite images and describe the experience in her own words.
Camaraderie and competition.
As soon as I stepped onto the field and began photographing, I felt both intensity and lightheartedness. In order to compete and accomplish a decathlon, athletes dedicate countless hours to being all-around fit.
Umbrellas canvassed the field as the athletes tried to stay out of the heat and stay hydrated. But what’s most important on competition days is keeping the energy up and drive high. Sometimes athletes only had 30 minutes from the time they crossed a finish line to the time they made their first jump. It’s impressive how fast they recovered and how much energy, mentally and physically, they maintained.
The decathlon felt different than other events I covered this weekend. Athletes are familiar with each other, as many travel around throughout the year to attend the same competitions. Between each other, competitors tried to keep the energy light. When someone wasn’t performing well other athletes cheered them on. I overheard Scantling telling Kyle Garland, “Come on, it only takes one.” Banter between the athletes varied from jokes about their performance in the sport, to significant others, and to even asking about their favorite barber.
I developed an emotional response to each athlete’s performance. When someone would do well, I almost forgot to photograph the moment. When someone had a miss or didn’t run well, I tried to encourage them. I think the decathlon is like that. If you watch, really watch, you’re invested. They could perform well in nine events and that tenth event could still make or break their chance at an Olympic bid or medal.
Most of the time when I’m shooting it’s not until the end of the day when I can really process those big moments. As a photographer you kind of have to be all in with documenting—which even though is difficult in the moment, makes for some pretty amazing photographs that allow the athletes and everyone else to remember the moments.
Here’s a look through my lens at these incredible athletes.
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