Heck, Mauga embark on track journey | NevadaAppeal.com

Heck, Mauga embark on track journey

Steve Puterski
Fallon's T.J. Mauga (pictured) and Nathan Heck will compete at the Arcadia Invitational this weekend and at the Mt. SAC Relays next week. Both meets are in Los Angeles.
Steve Puterski / sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com | LVN

Two of Fallon’s best join a short list of athletes to qualify for two of the biggest track meets on the West Coast.

Senior Nathan Heck and sophomore T.J. Mauga will each compete at the Arcadia and Mt. SAC Relays meets near Los Angeles. The duo will participate today (Mauga) and Saturday (Heck) at Arcadia, while the Mt. SAC event is April 18.

Arcadia boasts a competitive field of thousands of athletes from numerous countries, while the Mt. SAC features the top prep, collegiate and professional track athletes in the U.S. and world.

The Mt. SAC Relays is the largest track meet in the world as more than 13,500 athletes compete over three weekends and has played host to the U.S. Olympic Trials three times.

“I’m excited,” Fallon track coach Steve Heck said. “I kind of figured Nathan would get in and T.J. was on the verge. He (Mauga) got into the second group at Mt. SAC, which is just a great accomplishment for a sophomore. Not totally surprised, but very happy they both made it.”

The rigorous standards for both meets has proven tough for Fallon athletes to qualify. Heck said he remembers only two athletes to compete in one of the two meets including 2008 Olympian Aarik Wilson.

But Nathan Heck and Mauga have ended the drought.

“We haven’t sent a lot so it’s kind of a neat thing for these guys,” Steve Heck said. “It’s a huge honor to go, No. 1. You have people from all over the country and the world.”

Nathan Heck, a pole vaulter, qualified for Arcadia’s elite flight, while Mauga received a bid in the open flight.

Heck, who will vault at Idaho State University next year, enters both meets as one of the top pole vaulters to qualify and is ready to take the challenge head on.

“It’s a really big track meet that I’ve always wanted to go to,” Heck said. “It’s different than here in Nevada, where you’re the best. At these bigger meets, you really don’t know where you’re at. You kind of have to go in with an open mind.”

Mauga, meanwhile, has steadily improved each week and was able to qualify, albeit narrowly. Regardless, the hulking sophomore thrower will take aim at some of the country’s best in the discus.

Admittedly near the bottom in distance to qualify, Mauga said he will use it as motivation in hopes of taking down his competition.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to see where I’m at,” he explained. “I already know there will be a bunch of guys that are throwing better than me. My motivation is try to at least get close to them or beat them.”

As for the Mt. SAC Relays, Heck said the impressive list of collegiate and professional athletes is inspiring.

“It’s just as big a meet and it’s going to be tough to compete at the level twice in a row, but you got to do it,” he said.

Mauga, meanwhile, was surprised he made the cut, but is taking full advantage of the chance to compete.

“Going through this first one you can get used to it (the atmosphere) and using it on to the next meet,” he said.