By Zachary Zaborny
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kansas State student-athlete Moritz Cleve could be considered a great runner. For that matter, he could also be considered a great pole-vaulter as well.
In reality though, Cleve isn’t just great at one or two events, no, he’s great at ten different events.
The junior from Bochum, Germany is a member of the Wildcats’ track team as a competitor in the decathlon, not to mention the current defending Big 12 Champion.
As a decathlete, Cleve competes in ten events over the course of two days during a meet. The first day consists of the 100 meter run, 400 meter run, long jump, shot put, and high jump; while the second day consists of the javelin, pole vault, discus, 1100-meter hurdles and 1500 meter run. All ten events are individually scored and after all point totals are combined, the athlete with the highest overall point total is declared the winner.
Most good decathlon participants score between six and seven thousand points overall for a competition, but at the 2009 Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championship; Cleve far exceeded that and scored more than 8,000 points. His final total of 8,004 points set the Big 12 Championship meet record for the decathlon. He was also the first athlete to ever post at least 8,000 points at the conference championship meet.
To Cleve, winning the 2009 Big 12 Championship was something he was proud to achieve.
“Scoring 8,000 points is I guess for many decathletes, a big goal and I mean that was just great to achieve that,” Cleve said.
“It was just a bonus that it was also a meet record. The bigger thing was achieving the 8,000 points, I mean the big eight.”
At that championship, Cleve posted personal records in eight of the ten disciplines he competed in, while setting a personal record for his total score.
Cleve went onto the NCAA Championship where he finished third with 7,937 points and set a personal best in the pole vault, recording a score of 15-09.
As if being the conference champion and the third best decathlete in the country weren’t enough for Cleve, he would receive a special invitation from his native Germany to compete in the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, where he would finish 27th in the decathlon.
Being selected to compete in Berlin was a dream for Cleve.
“That was really huge,” Cleve said. ”Track and field people are not used to standing in front of crowds with tens of thousands of people. In Berlin with the home crowd, it was a goose bump feeling for sure.
“Every time that I was up competing or jumping, the crowd was just behind someone, just so passionately. People in Germany really understand what track is all about and so they really know how to evaluate stuff. It was a dream but I’m working on it to have that dream again.”
With so much outdoor success in the decathlon, one has to wonder if Cleve is just as successful with indoor track and field. The answer to that is yes.
During the indoor season, Cleve participates in the heptathlon, where he has had great success. In this year’s Big 12 indoor championship Cleve finished second in the heptathlon, but in 2009, he was the Big 12 Champion in heptathlon and earned All-America honors after he finished fifth in the 2009 NCAA Championship.
Kansas State head track and field coach Cliff Rovelto looks forward to Cleve having success again for the upcoming outdoor season, but stresses gradual gains over time, instead of instant yearly improvements.
“I don’t set specific point total goals or things like that for kids,” Rovelto said. “I just want them to continue to make progress and get better.
“There are going to be certain times in your development, and a decathlete is someone who you’re probably talking about eight to ten years of development with before they reach their full potential. In Mo’s case, he could very well have a total points score that’s very comparable to where he was a year ago, but that total would be derived in a different way. And then a year from now, you could see a two or three or four hundred point jump conceivably.”
Like Rovelto, Cleve is just focused on getting better as the 2010 outdoor season approaches.
“What I’m looking for is just maintaining the level or raising the level that I have right now,” Cleve said. “Eventually if I bring everything together in one competition then it’s going to be another new personal best.”
The continuing effort that Cleve always puts forward to help him improve is something that Rovelto admires.
“I think he has had a lot of success since he’s been here,” Rovelto said. “Probably what people don’t realize is how much he has improved. I think probably that in the 22 years I’ve been at Kansas State, we’ve had some people that improved significantly and were very successful in the decathlon, but we’ve never had anyone who has improved as much as Mo has, in as short a period of time as he has.”
With the outdoor season and his entire senior year to still compete and get better, Cleve hopes to eventually qualify for the Olympics and continue his track career after he graduates, but for right now, he’s just enjoying being a Wildcat and wearing purple.
“Before I came here I didn’t think that purple would be my favorite color but it kind of turns out to be,” Cleve said. “I think K-State is like a big family and I don’t think in a lot of other universities you can see this great spirit and togetherness of people. It doesn’t matter what color it is but people just know they belong at K-State.”