Skip navigation links

June 26, 2024

Graduate voice: I had a front row seat to my teammate’s Olympic trials win

What it was like to compete with Heath Baldwin as he qualified for Paris in the decathlon

Ryan Talbot graduated from Michigan State University in 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a minor in coaching. The Alto, Michigan, native was a member of the MSU Track and Field team, where he was a Big Ten champion and multiple-time All-American in the decathlon. Talbot competed in his final meet as a Spartan at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials alongside teammate Heath Baldwin, who won the event and will represent the U.S. at the Paris Olympics.

Ryan Talbot puts his arm around Heath Baldwin at the finish line of the 1,500 meter during the decathlon of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
Ryan Talbot and Heath Baldwin after the completion of the decathlon at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Courtesy of Ryan Talbot

With about 250 meters to go in the 1,500 meters of the decathlon at this year’s Olympic trials, I ran up on my teammate Heath Baldwin. We’ve run together hundreds of times as training partners and teammates — and we knew there was a chance that I would go by him toward the end of the race. But we also knew that I’d try to pull him toward the finish line with me. So, as I was going past him, I gave him a light smack on the back and said, “Let’s go!”

About 40 seconds later, Heath was the U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion in the decathlon. He’ll be going to Paris to compete later this summer. I was thrilled to be at the finish line with him to celebrate.

The decathlon is one of track and field’s hardest events. Over a two-day span, we compete in 10 events. The 100-meter, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400-meter are on the first day, and then we come back for the 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and, finally, the 1,500-meter on day two. Athletes receive points based on their performance in each (the better the performance, the higher the points), and whoever has the most combined points at the end wins. (Heath won the Olympic trials with 8,625 points, the third highest score by a collegiate athlete ever.) You must have speed, strength, endurance, athleticism and quite a bit of resilience to be a decathlete — if you mess up one event, it can ruin the entire competition.

You also need to be persistent. Since April, I competed in four decathlons, culminating with the Olympic trials. It was my last competition in the green and white, something I’m very proud of as I come from a family of Spartans and Spartan athletes — my mom was even a heptathlete on the track and field team. I took eighth place, which earned me an invitation to the Thorpe Cup, an international competition between the U.S. and Germany, in Wetzlar, Germany in July. After that, I’ll go to Paris to support my teammate, Heath.

Ryan Talbot, Coach Richard Fisher and Heath Baldwin post on the track at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon
From left to right: Ryan Talbot, Coach Richard Fisher and Heath Baldwin. Photo courtesy Ryan Talbot

While I won’t have quite as close of a view as I did during the Olympic trials, I cannot wait to cheer him on.

It was an honor to be so connected to his journey and to help in some way. Competing together in such a tough event, we share a brotherhood. Whether on the track or on the pole vault runway, we are always trying to give each other support and coaching each other up. It was so amazing to see him finally cross that finish line and secure the deal. Plus, I was fortunate to be one of the first who congratulated him — both of us in our MSU singlets at the finish line, it was an amazing feeling.

The support from the MSU community has made this experience even better. Our coaches and the athletic department take care of us. I received positive messages from faculty and staff. It was so cool to see how many people back in East Lansing have our backs. It’s nice to know that Heath will have that at the Olympics, too.

And while Heath and I won’t be in the green and white in our competitions this summer, it will be great to represent Spartans wearing red, white and blue.

Go Green!

Media Contacts


more content from this collection

Graduate voices