Feb. 18, 2010
One Event Too Few For All-American Pentathlete
By Maggie Corwin '12
You can usually find her on the track, throwing shot and javelin, or at the high and long jump. Emily Churchman, one of Northwest's track and field athletes, constantly trains to improve in all of her events. Churchman is known as a pent- or heptathlete, meaning she competes in many different events but it is only counted as one.
Before coming to Northwest, this Bearcat competed for Park Hill South High School and earned all-state honors in long jump, triple jump and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay. Just how did a nearly exclusive jumper end up in so many events?
"In high school I ran with Brandi Honeywell," said Churchman. "She did everything I did there. We both came to Northwest and Coach Lorek turned her into a heptathlete. I followed the same path.
"I knew coming into it that this is something I would want to do because Brandi had done it. (Northwest head track and field) Coach (Scott) Lorek thought it would be a great idea and it has worked out really well."
Lorek had other reasons to believe Churchman was capable of competing in so many events.
"When Emily came in as a freshman we were both thinking along the same lines," said Lorek. "She wasn't totally familiar with the pentathlon but in high school she hurdled and long jumped which are good places to start. She also had a big gymnastics background which means she has good body awareness."
Living and working out in a cold climate, such as the one Northwest athletes experience, often forces them to come up with various training conditions and techniques. Luckily, the Bearcats have training facilities meant to keep them out of the harsh weather.
In the basement of Lampkin Activity Center, there is space specified for various sports to train. Bearcat Arena's basketball court is surrounded by a track which the runners can use, while off to the side field athletes can use practice mats and equipment.
Though there is plenty of space, planning the schedules of a multi-event athlete can get complicated.
"We usually lift in the morning and then have several different event practices," said Churchman.
"We obviously cannot do every event each day," said Lorek. "It's tricky to find time to recover, so we have to split the jumps and add the throws. It takes a lot of planning for the heptathletes to figure out how they are going to distribute each day and sometimes it requires them to come in at various times, for example, high jump in the morning and running practice in the afternoon."
Multi-event athletes need to have endurance. Each athlete has a short period of recovery and has to be able to do so quickly.
"Emily thrives on it," said Lorek. "She loves competing and is very strong in her recovery. I have other heptathletes who need more time to recover, but she doesn't."
"I feel good going from event to event," said Churchman. "It's what we are trained to do."
Churchman trains for shot put, javelin, long jump, high jump, triple jump and hurdles, which says a lot for her high endurance, but she has come a long way since her freshman year.
"I was horrible at high jump because I had never done it before," said Churchman. "My freshman year, I was at 4'8'' and now I am at 5'7''. I prefer field events and my favorite individual event is long jump because it comes so naturally to me."
Coach Lorek suggested perhaps another hurdle event.
"She might be a very good 400-meter hurdler," said Lorek. "She has run it before and performed well. I tell her she has good speed and she doesn't want to hear it, but she could have great potential in the 400-meter hurdles."
For now, it seems Churchman is going to stick and improve upon the events she knows well. On February 1, she won first place at the Doane Pentathlon, marking her career-best and the nation's fifth-best score with 3,614 points. Both Churchman and Lorek look even higher with hopes of her becoming an All-American.
"I hope to score in the conference meet and I think our team's depth will help us place high as a team," said Churchman. "I hope to qualify for nationals in the pent and long jump and once there, the goal is to finish in the top eight.
"Emily has a tremendous work ethic and has great enthusiasm," said Lorek. "I hope for her to be an All-American outdoors, indoors, as well as in the pentathlon. Last year she was an All-American indoors. Since then she has really worked on the mental and physical aspects. I would love to see her compete beyond college."
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