By Cody Boos
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The 2013 track and field season was special for the University of Kansas women’s team. The squad rallied around a star-studded cast of senior leadership and a rapidly-developing sophomore that would ultimately cap off one the greatest seasons in Kansas Athletics history.
Lindsay Vollmer, a native of Hamilton, Mo., achieved a rare accomplishment as a sophomore in college. Not only was she a member of an NCAA championship-winning team, but she went on to become an individual national champion in the heptathlon in only her second year of collegiate competition.
“I try to look back on last season and it is just a blur,” Vollmer said. “We accomplished so many goals as a team that it is hard to pick one moment and say, ‘That was my favorite moment.’ We crossed so many huge barriers that nobody expected us to. We wanted to let people know, ‘This is Kansas, and this is what we are going to be.’”
Spoken like a true leader.
No longer playing the role of a youthful-follower, Vollmer is now being called upon to help lead the Jayhawks back to glory as they look to defend their national championship run this season. She admits that last year’s group of seniors helped prepare her for this new challenge.
“When you lose upperclassmen, a group of seniors that accomplished so much, you learn a lot from them. People like Andrea (Geubelle) and Francine (Simpson), both were excellent athletes and great teammates. They taught me that it’s not about the way you speak to people, it is about leading by example. Actions speak louder than words.”
Those actions have the All-American training harder than ever. As a competitor in the pentathlon and heptathlon, it is not about being good in any one event, but to be solid across the board. Athletes in the heptathlon compete in seven events: the 100-meter hurdles, the 800-meter run, 200-meter dash, high jump, long jump, shot put and javelin. The difference between the indoor pentathlon compared to the outdoor heptathlon is that there is no 200-meter or javelin competitions, and the 100-meter hurdles shorten to become 60-meter hurdles.
Vollmer has remained hungry despite having achieved in her second year what most athletes fail to accomplish in four years. She recognizes there is always room to improve and that is exactly what she expects to do.
“One of my weakest links last season was the 800-meter race,” Vollmer said. “It is a tiring race that requires lots of mental toughness. Coach (Stanley) Redwine, Coach (Wayne) Pate and I spend lots of time on Monday and Tuesday mornings working on the 800-meter run. It is good for me, and I need it to be prepared.”
Combined events coach Wayne Pate has a unique approach to working with his athletes. During the fall, he places a heavy emphasis on technique and sprinting to make sure his athletes have a good foundation prior to the indoor season. The indoor track season plays a vital role in track and field, but the emphasis is more on preparation than anything else. Indoor meets are used as a tool to ensure readiness for the outdoor season. Vollmer has absolutely bought in to coach Pate’s system.
“I use the indoor season to prepare for the outdoor season,” Vollmer said. “I am an outdoor season girl through and through because that is what I think track is all about, being out amongst the elements. Prior to college, I had never done an indoor meet so there was a bit of a transition. I like indoor and I believe it provides a good change of pace, but I use it to prepare for the outdoor season.”
In 2012-13, Vollmer used her time well during the indoor season. She became the Big 12 pentathlon champion, was named a Second Team All-American and earned a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships. This season, she is looking to take the next step in indoor competition, which will ultimately better prepare her for the outdoor season.
Thus far, the 2013-14 season has been kind to the budding star. On Jan. 22, Vollmer was tabbed as the Big 12 Female Athlete of the Week for her performance at the Holiday Inn Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. She recorded a personal best in the shot put as she launched it 12.19 meters, an improvement of nearly four inches from her previous best. Shortly after, she won the 60-meter hurdles with a personal-record time of 8.45. Vollmer had recorded a time of 8.47 two weeks earlier at the Bill Easton Classic, her previous best time, which put her at No. 25 in the national standings, ranked fourth-best in the Big 12.
The Big 12 Indoor Championships recently concluded with a slight setback for the junior. Vollmer was well on her way to a second-straight Big 12 pentathlon title through three of the five events as she amassed 2,635 total points, a 75-point lead over the next-closest competitor. Despite being on pace to break her own record (4,123) by 100 points, she was unable to record a fair mark on her three attempts in the long jump and pulled out of the competition, ending any hopes at a conference title and a trip to Albuquerque for the national championships.
Even with the disappointment of not notching a winning score in the pentathlon, Vollmer’s perseverance shined through after she turned her weekend around by finishing third and fourth in the open high jump and 60-meter hurdles, respectively. The finishes garnered 11 points for her team’s total and eventually helped the Jayhawks to a third-place finish at the event.
With the outdoor season on the horizon, Vollmer is looking to bounce back and make a run at a second-consecutive national championship. She believes that she and her teammates will be up for the challenge of getting every team’s best shot.
“People should expect to get our very best,” Vollmer said. “Coming off last year, we know we have a target on our backs, but I think that is pushing us to train harder and go faster than ever before. I wouldn’t be surprised if something crazy happens because we are going to bring it every day.”
Vollmer expects to bring it, and fans should expect the same. If she can provide another performance similar to her magical run in 2013, she might just make her dream of becoming an American Olympian a reality.
“The heptathlon is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” Vollmer said. “It is a huge time commitment, straining physically and mentally. I have put so much into this lifestyle that the next Olympic Games in Rio is definitely a goal of mine.”Vollmer and the Jayhawks will begin defending their outdoor conference and national titles on March 26, at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas.