3 students train for the heptathlon


First-year Olivia Abbott winds up to launch the shot put during practice. Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

The heptathlon is seven events over the course of two days in track and field. The hard work, dedication and team support are critical factors. Junior Brooke Whitburn, sophomore Melanie O’Brien and first-year Olivia Abbott all strive together to reach their goals and to compete at their best.

Many athletes have a turning point in their career when they realize they have a strong passion for their sports. Although they ran track for different reasons, O’Brien and Whitburn both started running in high school. All three of the girls competed for their high school teams and decided to pursue their passion for track in college.

The heptathlon consists of the 100-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump and the 200-meter run on Day 1. Long jump, javelin and the 800-meter run take place on Day 2.

The training for it is long and grueling. According to Wilburn, the girls train about four hours a day for the heptathlon. Although they have a small heptathlon team, that doesn’t discourage them from working hard.

“I think it’s pretty beneficial just because we are the only three heptathletes. We spend a lot more time together than other girls on the team,” O’Brien said.

Sophomore Melanie O'Brien throws the shot put during a practice at University Stadium. Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

As a small team, Whitburn felt that it helps them both on and off the field.

“I think with just the three of us it is a lot easier for everyone to do things together,” she said. “You can usually find time that works out to go to dinner, get ice cream and go to the park and do stuff, and that really helps because we are really close.”

O’Brien, Abbott and Wilburn all have their eyes set toward the future. Their hopes include reaching nationals for the heptathlon. Already being qualified for NCAA, the girls’ goals are obtainable.

Junior Brooke Whitburn uses all her force to throw the shot put during a practice at University Stadium. Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

Track has been a big part of the girls’ lives, and they have learned many things from the sport.

“Because I’ve been doing track for such a short time, I am constantly learning new things about it each and every day, and that’s one of my favorite things about the sport,” O’Brien said.

One of the main things she says she has learned however, is to not be down on herself when she doesn’t perform as well as hoped.

“This is especially important for the heptathlon, because we are doing so many events in one to two days that if something doesn’t go as planned, you can’t get down on yourself and let that weigh on you as you move to the next thing, because it will most likely have that impact on you,” O’Brien said.

“I think the biggest thing I have learned is to listen to your body. If something is hurting you need to listen to your body, tell the coach and take care of it,” Whitburn said.

Junior Brooke Whitburn launches a shot put during a practice at University Stadium. Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

The girls work hard not only for themselves, but each other and often refer to each other as family. With all of that love and support, nothing will slow these girls down from reaching their goals.

Danielle Pubill can be reached at [email protected] or @daniellepubill1 on Twitter.