The senior season for Tim Armstrong was supposed to be his best. Instead, it proved to be the most difficult and one that required his faith.
Armstrong, a multi-event athlete for EWU track and field, grew up in a biblical research family, where he learned how the lessons inside the Bible can be applied in a practical application.
“It has always been a part of me, kind of just a part of my flesh and bone,” said Armstrong. “It’s what I’ve grown to be, and it’s what I like to be. It seems to be the only thing that’s helped me through extremely challenging times. God and his grace … help[s] me to keep moving, to keep pressing forward.”
Following Armstrong’s junior year – where he placed fifth in the Big Sky Conference indoor heptathlon championships – the men’s captain of the jumps team was hoping for a successful senior campaign.
“You put in all the time and all the effort, it’s almost an expected thing,” said Armstrong. “But that’s the funny part about a multi-event, and the funny part about track. … You have to show up that day and do it. No matter what everybody’s marks walking into a championship meet are, if they don’t show up that day, it doesn’t matter.”
The fifth year senior, a former transfer from Community Colleges of Spokane, had what he called the, “the hardest track season that I’ve had. I’ve never no-heighted in so many events.”
Armstrong ran into a metaphorical roadblock – the pole vault.
With a career best 14 feet 1 and 3/4 inch mark in the vault, Armstrong had demonstrated the ability to clear the bar.
“Athletically he was progressing along just like we would expect, but he just had a little mental block and that happens in that event,” assistant coach Jon Hill said.
As the meets passed by and Armstrong continued to fall short of a qualifying mark for the championships, he fell back to his faith, something he has done his entire life.
“Like in Psalms it says all the time, ‘Wait on the Lord,’” said Armstrong, who can readily and easily quote scripture. “And again, I say, ‘Wait.’
“I was saying that a lot the whole indoor season.”
In fact, “waiting” would not stop as Armstrong never did hit the qualifying mark. But the top 12 in conference advanced to Flagstaff, Ariz. – the site of the indoor championships – and Armstrong made the cut.
Before the championship meet, Armstrong addressed the team.
“The cue I went on was to have poise,” said Armstrong. “It was more true to me and my performance than I think in anyone else’s.”
On the first day of the two-day heptathlon competition, Armstrong struggled in the shot put and high jump. The next day’s events included the pole vault, where he had labored all season.
“It was tougher to come back with a competitive mindset [on the second day] and have poise to be like, ‘OK, I’m going to continue to do my best,’” Armstrong said.
But in a competition like the heptathlon, head coach Stan Kerr has what he calls the three second rule.
“You can feel bad about it for three seconds,” said Kerr. “Then you have 29 minutes and 57 seconds to get ready for your next event. You can’t undo a poor performance.”
On Saturday, Armstrong responded and ran the 60-meter hurdles in a lifetime best 8.57 seconds and eventually finished seventh in the heptathlon, helping to propel the Eastern men to a best-ever third place finish.
“It was mentally and physically one of the hardest indoor track seasons that I’ve ever had,” said Armstrong. “To come out at the end of it and just finish a heptathlon, I was grateful for it.”
Armstrong, an exercise science major who hopes to pursue a career in Naturopathic medicine, had a humbling indoor track season, but it has all been part of the learning experience.
“I was challenged in points of my athletic career that have been difficult this season,” said Armstrong. “I was able to, … by the grace of God, push through and have a good couple days. I had to earn the couple days. I’m not necessarily the most spectacular athlete, and I think that’s what I enjoy.”