April 28, 1999
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
To those familiar with the Wyoming athletic program, the name Gregg Sawyer certainly rings a bell. Fans will remember the hard-working guard on the Cowboy basketball team, but this year, Sawyer is working hard in a different arena, that of track and field.
Sawyer is a pole vaulter and decathlete on the Wyoming track and field team. Earlier this season, he broke the school record in the pole vault when he cleared 17' 3/4". At the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Indoor Track and Field Championships, Sawyer broke the conference record in the pentathlon with 3,948 points.
Now the Cheyenne, Wyo., native has his sights set on the school record in the decathlon, which is held by Cowboy great Jay Novacek. Sawyer has been hampered by injuries early in the outdoor season, but now looks ready to make a run at the record.
Coming out of Burns High School in Burns, Wyo., Sawyer had a number of different opportunities athletically. North Carolina, Texas and Stanford all came calling for his track talents, but one thing stood in their way, a basketball scholarship at the University of Wyoming. "When Wyoming offered, there was no way I was going to turn that down," said Sawyer. "That's a dream for every Wyoming kid.
"I had played basketball since I could walk. My dad has been a coach and I was always around him, basketball was always my favorite. Plus, in track, it's hard to get a full-ride scholarship. While in basketball, you get a full-ride or nothing."
After a stellar four-year career on the Cowboy basketball team, Sawyer decided to use his fifth year of eligibility in track. "I had always planned on it," said Sawyer.
Following an outstanding senior campaign on the basketball court, which ended in the middle of March, Sawyer took a brief month-long break to complete his student teaching. With two weeks left before the WAC Outdoor Championships, Sawyer joined the track team at the beginning of May. "Coach Judge thought I might as well get started," said Sawyer. "And they threw me in there at the WAC Championships. It was perfect for me. If showed me what I could expect and gave me something to gear myself towards."
Now Sawyer has a full year of training for the decathlon under his belt. With all of the varied events in the decathlon, preparing involves lots of technique work. "Early in the season we practiced with the throwers in the morning to improve in the shot put. I also try to do a lot of hurdle drills, because that's one of my weaker events."
As far as the events Sawyer considers his best, he points to the 400-meter dash and mile run. "The mile is always the last event of the day, and it comes down to guts and will power," said Sawyer. Those who remember #15 diving for loose balls in the Arena-Auditorium have no doubts about his determination and guts.
When his college track days are over, Sawyer will quite possibly continue to train, with bigger things in mind. "If I score as well as I'm hoping to, which is close to 8,000 points, I should get into the USA Championships. Usually, if you make it there, you get invited to the Olympic trials, which is the following summer."
If the chance to compete for a spot on the Olympic team does present itself, Sawyer will most likely look for a graduate assistant position with a track program next year. It will give him another year of training and the opportunity to get a master's of business administration.
Now that his time in Laramie is almost up, is Sawyer happy with his decision to remain in his home state and prove Wyoming can produce elite athletes? "This was a tremendous experience for me," said Sawyer. "A lot of Wyoming kids don't get the chance because the state is so small, but there are some outstanding individual athletes here."
By Dusty Clements
Wyoming Sports Information