After a record-breaking first place finish in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference (GLIAC) outdoor heptathlon, NMU junior Leslie Luehmann qualified for the Division II Nationals meet on May 22-24.
At Nationals, Luehmann finished 11th overall.
The NCAA heptathlon is a seven-part event, consisting of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter run, long jump, javelin throw and 800-meter run. The winner is determined by a point system.
After the first day of competition, Luehmann was in 7th place. Luehmann earned that position with the second-longest jump of the day (5.44 meters) and her second personal fastest hurdle time (15.61 seconds). Her 200-meter time (26.09) was the third fastest at the meet.
NMU head track coach Tom Barnes said the heptathlon is an event about consistency, and at the end of the day, the top finishers are the ones who can be the most consistent for the two-day event.
“She is a really good competitor and she competed just as well as anyone there,” Barnes said about Luehmann.
Barnes added that Luehmann had difficulty with her javelin throws, and that she would have finished higher if not for that event. After three throws, just one was allowed at 22.14 meters, due to two foul attempts. Luehmann’s only recorded throw was the shortest distance of all competitors.
Her javelin throws were unfortunate, but Barnes said Luehmann showed perseverance and never gave in to the pressure of the national spotlight.
“You have to be confident – and you have to be aggressive too – when you’re doing some of these events that you’re not so used to,” Barnes said, “and she was able to do that.”
Luehmann is a native to nearby Ishpeming and was the first Wildcat to compete at the NCAA nationals in two years. Barnes said Luehmann’s athleticism is a great example of the progress that NMU’s track program is currently achieving.
“It helps our team being known in the area. When you get somebody that’s a local athlete that is able to do something like that, it really gets people’s attention,” he said.
“I know some of her younger teammates, they kind of opened their eyes up and they see that they can do the same thing.”
Barnes said he hoped Luehmann’s efforts at nationals would not only bring her personal success for next year, but also inspire more NMU athletes to compete at Nationals in the future, as well.
“She did her personal best in a lot of events, but I think she still can get better in every event,” Barnes said. “We did have a few other people who were close to making it to Nationals, but she should go next year. And we will have a couple more next year – we hope.”