A combined effort

Josh Johnston

With the Mid-American Conference Championships starting this weekend, the heptathlon and pentathlon athletes prepare to compete in multiple events

Tiffany Brenneman (right), senior Kent State women’s distance runner placed 4th in the women’s 1-mile run at the Kent-Akron track and field duals January 25.


Credit: DKS Editors

Most track and field athletes compete in two or three events a meet. For senior Nick Ivancic, sophomore Brooke Sposito and freshman Michael Schober, two or three events just aren’t enough.

The group will compete in combined events at the Mid-American Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship in Bowen Field House in Ypsilanti, Mich., meet today and tomorrow. Combined events are the men’s heptathlon, which is seven events, and the women’s pentathlon, which is five events.

“The combined events are the ultimate challenge,” said coach Bill Lawson, a former decathlete himself. “You have to be able to jump and throw and have to be very conditioned to handle the longer running event. I think it’s the ultimate test of the all-around athlete.”

The 60-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800-meter run make up the pentathlon. At the championship meet, Sposito will do all five events on the first day.

“You have to concentrate on all of them,” she said, “because every event counts.”

Athletes score points based on a table in the combined events. Each height, distance and time has a corresponding score, so the better the athlete does, the more points he or she scores.

Lawson said he likes Sposito’s chances of winning.

“She could be the champion,” he said. “There’s a lot of other people trying to do that and she has to really be on.”

Last year at the MAC Championships, Sposito totaled 3,571 points to finish second.

She won the Sykes-Sabock Challenge pentathlon at Penn State earlier this season with 3,340 points. Although she’s had better overall scores, Sposito managed to set new personal bests in the hurdles and shot put.

While Sposito battles for the top spot in the pentathlon, Ivancic and Schober will look to continue a Kent State tradition in the heptathlon: Winning.

For the past two years, Chris Caine took home the heptathlon crown for the Flashes. After Caine’s graduation, Lawson looked to Ivancic to defend that title.

“He has a great chance to win,” Lawson said. “(Ivancic) has superior speed and running and jumping abilities.”

Ivancic will need to use all his abilities in this exhausting, two-day event. The heptathlon consists of the 60-meter, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 hurdles, pole vault and 1,000-meter run.

Ivancic said it’s a hectic pace.

“You’re constantly doing something,” he said. “You try to do your best in each event and get the best score you can possibly get.”

With seven events, an athlete is bound to make some mistakes. Ivancic said when that happens he doesn’t let it bother him.

“You just have to remember not to get yourself too down,” he said. “If you keep yourself down it’s going to keep wearing you out the rest of the meet. You have to clear your mind.”

Ivancic currently sits atop the MAC rankings in the heptathlon. He scored 5,027 points at the Golden Flash Gala earlier this season.

“He has a couple weak events,” Lawson said. “Other than that he’ll have a good chance to defend (Caine’s) last two years of championships.”

Schober, the rookie to the combined events group, competed in his first heptathlon at the Golden Flash Gala.

“It’s a lot of fun doing a lot of different events,” he said. “But it gets very tiring.”

Lawson said he expects Schober to place well this weekend.

“(Schober’s) starting to come around,” Lawson said. “It’s been a little rough transition his first year, but he showed promise in the later practices.”

At the Gala, Schober finished in 11th place with 4,079 points.

Ivancic was already a proven heptathlete when Lawson began coaching at Kent State, but Schober and Sposito were recruited by Lawson to participate in the combined events.

Although they try to focus on each event equally, each athlete has his or her preferences. Sposito said her least favorite event is the 800.

“I dread that race,” she said. “I think about it the whole time during the pentathlon.”

Contact sports correspondent

Josh Johnston at [email protected].