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Hot Seat: Italian decathlon champ making name for himself with Holton track and field

Daniele Tomasi was an Under-18 national champ in his homeland. Now he’s turning heads as exchange student.

HOLTON — As an Under-18 national champion in the decathlon in his native Italy, Daniele Tomasi is accustomed to being the leader of the pack.

It’s been an adjustment for Tomasi as a foreign-exchange student at Holton High School, but a glance at his profile shows that he’s getting by just fine when it comes to his No. 1 passion: Track and field.

Tomasi has been a Red Devils revelation this spring, starring in the 110-meter hurdles and more than holding his own in multiple other events.

The 18-year-old from Bolzano, located in the northern part of Italy near the Austrian border, took a bit of a leap signing up to be an exchange student. He landed in Holton, living with hosts Jason Tubergen and Daniel Taylor Tubergen, as well as fellow exchange student Murilo Luiz from Brazil.

It’s been quite the cultural adjustment, but Tomasi said it’s been nice to “expand your borders and try some new stuff and meet some new people.” He’s getting used to things here and said “It’s been a nice journey.”

“This kid, track and field, the whole year, you’ll see him in town even after we’re out of practicing — he’s continuing (to put in the work). That’s what his life is,” said Holton coach John Crowell, who is in his 23rd season overall coaching the sport.

“He’s at my house quite a bit. He’s got a good group of kids that he hangs out with. These kids here at Holton, they’re a hoot.”

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Tomasi trains year-round for the decathlon. When he returns to Italy after this school year, he’ll compete in the Under-20 category at nationals.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

At Holton, Tomasi has done a little bit of everything in track and field as one would expect a decathlete to do.

In the 110 hurdles, he’s finished first in every race with the exception of the Lakeview Invitational, where he placed second. His season-best time in the event is 15.43 seconds.

Similarly, Tomasi has finished first in pole vault in every meet with the exception of the aforementioned Lakeview Invitational. His season-best height in the event is 12 feet, 1 inch.

“Right now hurdles are his strong suit. That’s his wheelhouse right now,” Crowell said.

Here are the other individual events in which Tomasi has competed for Holton this season with his season-bests listed in parentheses:

  • Long jump (21-0.5)
  • Discus (111-8.5)
  • 100 meters (11.86)
  • 200 meters (24.88)
  • 400 meters (51.90)
  • 300 hurdles (44.11)

Tomasi has also run the 4×400 relay for the Red Devils.

“He’s very thoughtful about what he does, how he does it. He’s very dedicated with practices and training. Just a very dedicated person,” said Holton senior Ava Crowell, daughter of the Red Devils coach and one of Tomasi’s closer friends here.

“I think his No. 1 (goal) is just pushing himself to see if he can do better at every meet and just doing his personal best.”

In his two-day national decathlon competition that he won in the Under-18 category, Tomasi competed in the 100, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400 on the first day. On the second day, he competed in the 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin throw, and 1500 run.

Tomasi’s goal for this track and field season with Holton is to stay consistent and be healthy for the stretch run with the regional and state finals approaching. His goal is to win an MHSAA state championship in one of his events.

One of the big differences between Tomasi’s homeland and the U.S. is that a lot of high school track and field athletes here do not train year-round. He has continued to train, even when the climate of Michigan’s winter season did not necessarily cooperate.

Tomasi said that since he’s been here in the U.S., he’s been able explore different parts of the country such as Florida and California and he’s thoroughly enjoyed it.

According to Tomasi, his favorite meal in the U.S. has been the various cuts of meat he’s eaten.

Daniele Tomasi, a foreign-exchange student from Italy, served as placekicker for the Holton football team during the 2023 season. (Photo courtesy of Dan Packard)

In the fall, he served as placekicker for Holton’s football team and enjoyed the experience immensely. He’s become a fan of American-style football — the Detroit Lions gained a new fan.

All in all, Tomasi seems to have adapted to competition and culture in America and he’s done quite well adjusting to the English language. He seems to be earning respect from teammates and competitors alike.

“He’s very nice, he’s very competitive and athletic, obviously. But he’s just very kind and thoughtful,” said Ava Crowell, who possesses many of those same qualities herself. “I mean, I think he’s adapted pretty well. He’s very easy to get along with and he’s just interested in the (U.S.) culture and stuff.”

“He’s very humorous. It’s easy to have a conversation with him. It’s just easy to talk with him and he’s very thoughtful and nice. He’s just a cool guy.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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