With the skills to compete in seven different events, Minnesota heptathlete Jess Herauf truly does it all.
The Gopher women’s track and field team will compete in the NCAA West Preliminary beginning Thursday in Austin, Texas, but Herauf has already cemented her spot in the national meet.
The North Dakota native competes in the heptathlon, an event consisting of 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, the 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin throw and the 800-meter dash. Multi-event athletes get to forgo the preliminary competition and are immediately eligible for nationals.
“It’s a weight lifted off your shoulders a bit to know you’ve put so much work into the multi and that you’re automatically qualified,” Herauf said.
Herauf is no stranger to big meets. The redshirt junior had a successful indoor season competing in the pentathlon, placing fifth in the NCAA Championship and becoming Minnesota’s first Big Ten pentathlon champion since 2008. She also broke the school record three times during the season and set career bests in all seven events.
Though Herauf proved to be cool under pressure indoors, the outdoor stage brings a new set of challenges.
“The [pentathlon] is one day. The [heptathlon] is two days, so you wake up the next day and it’s a lot more fatiguing,” Herauf said. “It’s kind of whoever can overcome that for the second day. It’s a little more mental than the [pentathlon.]”
Despite the mentality shift between the two seasons, Herauf has maintained success during the spring. At the Big Ten championships almost two weeks ago, she won the Big Ten title in heptathlon and set both a Minnesota and Big Ten record in the event with 6,014 points.
With each competition containing so many events, Herauf said it can be easy for one bad performance to snowball into others.
It’s a challenge Herauf has learned to deal with though, head coach Matt Bingle said.
“You’ve got to learn and change emotionally from event to event,” Bingle said. “In that way, she’s good at that. She’s just kind of focused on that moment, and it makes it easier for me to coach.”
Herauf’s achievements have come with a fair share of adversity. After suffering stress fractures in her back, she was forced to redshirt her second year with the Gophers. However, Herauf called the injury “a blessing in disguise” because it allowed her to strengthen her relationships with her trainers and coaches.
Bingle thought the year off ended up helping Herauf, too.
“We have another full year next year when, hopefully, she’ll be even better and be able to handle even more training, so I think it did benefit her in the long run,” Bingle said.
For now, though, the Gophers and Herauf are still focused on the remainder of the season still ahead of them.
As 18 other Gopher athletes prepare for the preliminary meet this weekend, Herauf said she’s excited to see what she and her teammates can do the rest of the year.
“Minnesota usually only has a couple people,” Herauf said. “I think that the group we have this year is really going to surprise some people, so I’m excited to make some noise with them.”