Since Jan. 11, Johannes Hock has found himself living in a new world.
That’s the date he arrived in Austin from his native Germany as a mid-term enrollee at Texas. It also was the first day he ever set foot on U.S. soil.
It was, he quickly discovered and already suspected, a long way from his hometown of Cologne in more than just geography. It was different in a lot of ways.
“When I went to the grocery store, I didn’t know any of the products,” Hock said, speaking in near-flawless English. “It’s hard to make a decision because you don’t know what things are going to taste like.”
There are plenty of other examples, but there’s one place where Hock feels right at home — the track at Myers Stadium — and it’s the reason he’s here in the first place.
Hock demonstrated at the recent Big 12 indoor championships that he has the potential to be the latest in a long line of outstanding Longhorns’ multi-event performers. He blitzed the conference field in his first-ever full heptathlon, leading from the start and posting the top marks in four of the seven events.
His 5,858 points were 255 more than second-place Devin Dick of Kansas State, and gives him the fifth-best showing nationally heading into the NCAA indoor championships that open Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.
“We were really counting on him not only winning, but getting his qualifying mark for the national meet,” said his events coach Mario Sategna, who recruited him to Texas. “Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but without a doubt he owned (the Big 12 meet) from the first event on.”
Hock is one of four Longhorns men and 11 women at the two-day national meet at the University of Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center. The UT women placed fourth at last year’s indoor national championship, while the men were seventh.
The Longhorns’ roll call of multi-event stars is impressive. The obvious headliner is Trey Hardee, the NCAA record-holder in the decathlon who is a two-time gold-medalist in the event at the World Championships and the silver medalist at the 2012 Olympics.
Texas has won six of the 17 Big 12 heptathlon crowns with performers that also include Petter Olson (2012), Aaron Fox (1997) and Donovan Kilmartin (three straight from 2005-07).
Sategna, who continues to coach Hardee, met Hock at a meet in Germany last July when Hardee was finishing his prep work for the Olympics and Longhorn Isaac Murphy, the 2012 Big 12 decathlon champion, was competing in the Thorpe Cup between German and U.S. decathletes.
Hock and his mother visited with Sategna and Hardee, and Hock liked what he heard.
“It was a good talk,” he said. “I saw we had the same impression of how to train and stuff, and that was important to me.”
It also helped, Sategna noted, that Hock’s sister had once been a foreign exchange student at Texas-El Paso, and that Hardee also spoke on Texas’ behalf, which carried weight with Hock.
“That definitely helped,” Sategna said. “Trey is one of the biggest advocates for our program and the university.”
Hock is stronger in the outdoor decathlon than in the indoor heptathlon because the decathlon plays to his throwing strength by including the javelin and discus. He has a best in the decathlon of 7,884 points set in 2012, which would have made him the No. 4 decathlete in UT history had he been competing for the Longhorns.
Head coach Bubba Thornton said Hock has been so busy adjusting to school and the indoor season that he hasn’t had time to be homesick. Hock said he hopes to take advantage of spring break to learn more about Austin, because his world since arriving has been confined to the campus and track.
“I’m kind of glad he hadn’t been to the U.S. before,” Thornton said of the 6-2, 205-pound Hock. “If he had been, he probably would have been one of the greatest strong safeties or outside linebackers in the business. I believe he can do anything he sets his mind to.”
Despite sharing a suite in the dorm with Longhorns running back Daje Johnson, Hock said he’ll happily stick to track.
“You help each other (in track) but in the end you stand for the work you do. You get the reward, or you don’t,” he said. “That’s what I like about this sport. It’s pure. You could be the best player in the NFL and not win the Super Bowl because your teammates are not the right ones. That would really drive me crazy.”
NCAA INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Friday-Saturday, Fayetteville, Ark., ESPN3
Texas will have four men and 11 women competing at the NCAA national indoor championships:
Men: Hayden Baillio (shot put), Johannes Hock (heptathlon), Keiron Stewart (60-meter hurdles), Joe Stilin (mile)
Women: Shanay Briscoe (high jump), Courtney Okolo (400, 1600 relay), Danielle Dowie (400, 1600 relay), Briana Nelson (400, 1600 relay), Kendra Chambers (1600 relay, 800), Kaitlin Petrillose (pole vault), A’Lexus Brannon (long jump), Christy Udoh (200), Chalonda Goodman (200), Sara Sutherland (5,000), Morgan Snow (60-meter hurdles)