While successful track and field athletes are talented at running, jumping or throwing, for heptathletes, it takes the ability to perform at a high level in all three.
Led by indoor national champion junior Emma Dewart, the multi-event athletes on the women’s track and field team look to carry their success indoors in the five-event pentathlon to the outdoor track in the seven-event, two-day heptathlon.
Dewart said most of the Blue and Gold’s heptathletes arrive on South Hill with a background in sprinting and jumping but don’t plan on being multi-event athletes at the collegiate level.
“We kind of joke about it,” she said. “If you come in as a sprinter and a jumper, you’re going to end up being a multi.”
The indoor pentathlon is made up of the long jump, high jump, shot put, 60-meter hurdles and 800-meter dash.
The heptathlon adds the javelin and 200- meter dash and replaces the 60-meter hurdles with the 100-meter hurdles. Dewart said the only difference in training for the two events is practicing the javelin.
The heptathlon requires athletes to have the strength to throw shot put, the technique for hurdles, explosiveness for sprinting and jumping, and the stamina to survive all that and run the 800-meter dash at the end.
One great event can’t single-handedly win a heptathlon. Freshman Rachel Brown said the ability to remain composed through stellar and sub par performances is the key to success.
“If you did bad, you have to get that out of your mind and start fresh for the next one,” Brown said.
Dewart said the heptathetes usually work on three events a day, often spending 40 minutes high jumping, 40 minutes working on the shot put and then run 200 meter repeats at the 800 meter pace.
At the conclusion of two days of competition comes the final and most grueling event — the 800-meter dash. Sophomore Amanda Rissmeyer said no Bomber heptathletes are natural middle-distance runners, so the event causes dread.
Dewart said the run tends to make her nervous. At nationals she held a slim lead going into the 800 and needed to stay within a second of Gustavus Adolphus College senior Janey Helland. Dewart sat on Helland’s heels the entire race and finished in 2:24.60, a season best by seven seconds, and 0.15 behind Helland, holding on to a nine-point victory.
“It’s the last event, and you’re exhausted,” Dewart said. “A lot of the time — for example at nationals — the win or your place comes down to the 800.”
Brown said at the end of a multi-event competition there is a sense of relief no matter the quality of the performance.
“No matter what your time was you are just excited that the 800 is over and the whole thing is done,” Brown said.
Each heptathlete specializes in different events. Rissmeyer qualified for nationals in the high jump last year, Brown’s specialty is hurdles, junior Ashley Dlubac is the strongest thrower among the heptathletes and junior Hannah Evans excels at long jump. Dewart has qualified for nationals individually in the high jump and hurdles. Rissmeyer said with the range of specialties improves the entire group of heptathletes.
Everyone has their own area of expertise,” she said. “So you need help in a specific area, you can go to one of your teammates, not just a coach.”
The Bombers’ multi-event athletes have both elite level talent and the depth that overwhelms opponents. In addition to national champion Dewart, Rissmeyer placed fourth at the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships March 5 at The Armory in New York City, N.Y.
At the indoor state championships Feb. 26 at St. Lawrence University, the Bombers had four of the nine competitors in the event, including juniors Ashley Dlubac and Hannah Evans, who placed second and third respectively.
Rissmeyer said heptathletes tend to be the first ones to get to practice and the last to leave because they have seven events to train for.
“We’re at practice early to practice javelin and sometimes we end up being there later because we don’t get to shot put until the end,” Rissmeyer said. “[Head Coach Jennifer Potter and Assistant Coach Mary Wallenbeck] have us do everything so we’re prepared for everything and it’s not a shock.”
Rissmeyer said the running events are weighted heavier, so it is easier to score points in those races than the field events, but being passionate about every opportunity is key for competing in multiple events.
“You have to love it,” she said. “If you don’t love it, it’s not going to work.”