At the Div. III New England Track and Field Championship on Feb. 17-18, co-captain Tobias Muellers ’18 broke the College’s heptathlon record – for the second time. On Jan. 28-29, Muellers scored 4860 points, surpassing the previous record of 4698 points set by Reid Pryzant ’16 two years ago. Three weeks later, he topped that performance with a stunning 4890 points.
The heptathlon is a competition comprised of seven events: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meter, long jump, javelin and 800 meter. It is also an event that Muellers had never planned to compete in after spending his high school and early college career as a 400 meter runner. In fact, he did not even plan to join the track and field team at the College. The Burlington, Vt. native was recruited to the men’s soccer team and initially planned to focus on soccer and academics alone. However, his plans ended up changing. “I found myself in the track coach’s office my freshman fall,” Muellers said. “I ended up doing indoor and outdoor … Track is just something that I love to do, so I had to keep doing it.”
Two years later, Muellers is a starter on the soccer team and a track-and-field record holder, as well as a co-captain of both teams (incoming for soccer).
Muellers, however, has some regrets about being a two-sport athlete. He said that he is unable to be as involved on both teams as he would like. “Soccer is off-season now, and I should be playing a bigger role in the offseason, but I just can’t,” he said.
Although this division of time is difficult, it seems to have helped rather than hindered Muellers’s athletic performance. “He has a renewed vigor for training with each change of season,” men’s track and field Head Coach Ethan Barron said. “There is far less fatigue psychologically and physically when he is able to constantly change the stimulus. He comes to track with a full battery after soccer, and the same happens in reverse after the spring.”
On top of the two sports, Muellers has to make time for academics.
“It’s really hard,” he said. Finding the balance between sports and schoolwork sometimes means making tough choices.
“The thought crosses your mind, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be so much easier, and wouldn’t I have so much more time if I didn’t do athletics?’” he said. “But that’s not really how it works. Athletics are my release at the end of the day and that allows me to go back and really dig into the academics.”
This ability to separate tasks and devote himself to the work at hand is one of Muellers’ particular strengths.
“He understands that being a fierce competitor, a gentleman and an engaged community member are not mutually exclusive,” men’s soccer Head Coach Erin Sullivan ’96 said. “On the contrary, he embodies many of the important aspects that define Williams and the liberal arts – strong character, broad intellectual pursuits and leadership through teamwork.”
“I’ve worked with a number of All-American decathletes, Barron added. “None have had Tobias’s ability to [singularly] focus on the task at hand. Few athletes have that ability to silence distractions both internal and external.” This impressive ability has clearly served him well on the soccer field and in the academic arena as well as on the track.
Although Muellers focuses intently on his own performance, he is very invested in his team as a whole. At the College, Muellers has learned how to be a true and consistent teammate, something he believes has been “incredibly valuable and important.” This lesson has served him in the context of both soccer and track and field.
“I think [the team dynamics] are less different than they seem,” he said. “In soccer, you’re always around your team with the same guys; in track, you’re a little more split up with training and events. But it’s still cheering other people on, competing head to head with people on your team and knowing how to make each other better.”
His tendency to think of his team ahead of himself was evident when he was asked if anything was missing from his profile. Muellers took the opportunity to talk about others. “I think it’s important to highlight – especially with track – that an individual performance looks like an individual performance, but it’s coaches, it’s teammates, it’s everyone around you and it’s the school that lets you do stuff like this,” he said. “It’s not in a vacuum. It’s not just me but so many people who helped me get to where I am now.”
Overall, Muellers shows no signs of slowing down. “His strengths and versatility as a defender have continued to evolve, and we’re very excited for his senior season this fall,” Sullivan said. “He is a gladiator, a warrior who gives every ounce of his body mind, and soul to the team’s effort.”