After a busy week, McGinnis seeking last accomplishment at NCAAs

Decathlete R.J. McGinnis, after a busy few weeks which included getting married, is seeking an All-American finish.

Derek Wetmore

R.J. McGinnis has conquered quite a bit: college academia, marriage and the Big Ten decathlon. Now his sights are on the NCAA championships. McGinnis and several of his teammates begin competing at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships today in Eugene, Ore. Also competing is distance runner Chris Rombough, middle distance runner Ben Blankenship and high jumper Matt Fisher . Head coach Steve Plasencia made his teamâÄôs goals very clear. âÄúWe want to return to Minnesota with four All-Americans,âÄù Plasencia said. Plasencia also said though the team has enjoyed an influx of young talent, itâÄôs the experience of this group that should help them compete well at the championships. As a graduated senior, McGinnis is a large part of that experienced group. While his primary focus at the moment is performing well in the decathlon at the NCAA championships, McGinnis has had a lot on his plate over the past few weeks. After winning the Big Ten decathlon three weeks ago, his first Big Ten title in the event, McGinnis married his fiancee Andrea. âÄúItâÄôs been awesome,âÄù McGinnis said. âÄúItâÄôs been a hectic time to get married with all these things going on.âÄù The couple plans to move to Houston, Texas, after the championships so R.J. can begin his career as an educator, teaching junior high science with Teach for America. McGinnis graduated in May, but did not walk at the ceremony because of the Big Ten meet. McGinnis originally went to St. Cloud State to play football. He redshirted in his first year and, after playing a season, was lured by a friend to give the track team a try. âÄúI didnâÄôt feel like my heart was in football anymore,âÄù McGinnis said, âÄúI was just going through the motions.âÄù McGinnis said he knew from early on that he would be a multi-event competitor. The following summer, McGinnis said he realized his calling was to volunteer at a local church, which brought the Burnsville native to Minneapolis. Once in the Twin Cities, he called the track coaches at the University to see if there was an opportunity to compete. McGinnis joined the team and began competing in the heptathlon for the indoor season and the decathlon for the outdoor season. After having finally captured the Big Ten title in the event he said comes most naturally to him, the decathlon, McGinnis said his goal is to become an All-American in the event, which involves finishing in the top 8. He hopes to attain the rewards of capturing an elusive title once more before he closes the book on his college career. Assistant coach Paul Thornton has worked directly with McGinnis for the past several years and neither he nor Plasencia think these goals are out of reach. âÄúR.J. is a character guy and heâÄôs always been diligent in all the things that he does,âÄù Plasencia said. Thornton said he is impressed with the way McGinnis has worked throughout his career and is not surprised that the hard work has brought McGinnis to the precipice of All-American status. ItâÄôs a career trajectory that has culminated in a very busy couple of weeks, a trajectory that McGinnis and the Gophers menâÄôs track team hopes will conclude with some points and an All-American certificate.