Al Erickson dies at 84; won decathlon gold at Sacramento worlds

Albert “Al” Erickson had the eye of the tiger. He trained ferociously and competed often, the oldest member of Seattle-based Club Northwest. His moment came in 2011, when he won M80 gold in the decathlon at Sacramento worlds, scoring 5579 points — 1100 ahead of second place. But about three weeks ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a friend writes. “He was the picture of health, competing at our weekly all-comers meets last summer,” my Northwest source says. Al died Oct. 27 at age 84. Services are pending. Below is a video apparently made by his grandchildren showing him at every stage of the Sacto decathlon. Wonderful tribute. Our deepest condolences.

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October 30, 2013

5 Responses

  1. Roger Vergin - October 30, 2013

    This is such sad news of the death of Albert Erickson. I had the great good fortune to also be a member of Club Northwest and to participate in many track meets with Albert, from the Club Northwest Wednesday night All-Comers meets to the USATF Seattle Regional Championships to the National and World Decathlon Championships. Our parallel paths in life went back decades, as we were both professors at the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington, though we did not meet until we independently discovered masters track and field after retirement.
    There is nobody I enjoyed seeing at a meet more than Al. He was always full of enthusiasm, with a smile on his face, and ready to cheer on his fellow competitors. One had to move fast to keep up with Al. Al was first and foremost a decathlete and his favorite meet was the USATF National Decathlon Championship. So, at other meets, he was competing in as many of those ten events as he could fit in, even if meant he could only get in a couple of attempts in the long jump or discus or shot.
    Al was not only an enthusiastic athlete, he was also a very talented athlete. He won the first national decathlon championship that he competed in, though he had never previously done several of the events. He won the world championship just two years ago. I believe he had never lost a decathlon until this summer, when he finished second to Bob Hewitt’s world record shattering performance at UNC Charlotte.
    Al was most fortunate to have a loving and devoted family. At the Charlotte decathlon, I joked to fellow competitors that it was a good thing that Al was entered in the meet, otherwise we would not have had anybody to cheer us on. In fact, that was not really a joke, because fully half of the crowd consisted of Al’s family, four generations in all, down to great grandchildren. My deepest condolences go to his loved ones.
    Al was not quite as fast in the 400 and 1500 this summer at the decathlon, but he looked strong in the rest of the events and showed no indication of being in anything but the best of health. His sudden passing is a loss to his many track and field friends and masters track. I shall miss him.

  2. Stefan Waltermann - October 31, 2013

    It shows you how fast it can be over. In an article covering the British Masters Decathlon 2012 Championship I stated that we immerse ourselves in the decathlon to die healthier and happier. When I wrote this I thought of Albert “Al” Erickson as I had met him at the US Decathlon Nationals in Seattle a few weeks earlier. At age 83, he looked much younger, healthy and, most of all, happier than some younger age groups combined. Same this year in Charlotte, the man was one truly happy dude surrounded by family. Same firm handshake, same infectious smile, a guy you want to hang out with during a very long decathlon day. I’m going to miss the man at future decathlon championships.

  3. David E. Ortman (M60, Seattle, WA - November 1, 2013

    It was a shock to return from WMA-Porto Alegre and learn we had lost two “Als”. I did not know Al Sheahan, other than by his considerable reputation, but it was my great delight to get to know Al Erickson. He gave hope to a goal of competing in a decathlon while in my 80s. The Seattle Times Pacific NW magazine last year (June 10, 2012) did a marvelous story by Maureen O’Hagan on Seattle area masters track and fieldsters and runners, including Al Erickson, with some great photos. I’m still trying to locate a link to the photos, but here is a link to the text. Al, you were a 10 in my book.

  4. David E. Ortman (M60), Seattle, WA - November 1, 2013

    In an earlier post I mentioned pics of Al Erickson competing at our Seattle/Shoreline All-comers Meets run by former USATF President Bill Roe. There is a photo gallery including shots of Al that you can click on to the right of the text at:

  5. Bob Sheedy - November 16, 2013

    Al Erickson…
    a great role model and a great friend.
    Roger Virgin and Stefan Waltermann have said it best
    Al but I would like to add my memories of you.
    You were the one who would call any time to ask
    for advise in the small details of the Decathlon events and you were always positive and cheerful.
    The voice of Al that I remember best is the one behind me after my first throw in the Discus at the National Decathlon Event in Seattle. Rain had made the Discus Ring a swimming pool and you Al had asked me what to do before the first throw and I had said “take a Standing Throw”..But I went ahead and took a full turn on my first throw and behind me the only voice I heard was yours “Nice standing throw Bob!”
    Al you are still my hero and role model and
    Your voice wonderful voice is still behind me
    and I will listen for you in all my future meets
    Thank you for your friendship and encouragement.
    Bob Sheedy

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