MANKATO, Minn. — Two women lay flat on their backs. Three more sat on the ground. Hands firmly rested on the knees of several others.
Amid the exhaustion marking the end of the 800 meters — and thus the end of the grueling pentathlon Saturday at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships — stood Central Missouri senior Lindsay Lettow.
She didn’t have a choice. The high jump competition was already underway.
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“The officials tried to give us just enough time to catch our breath,” said Lettow, whose second-place finish in the 800 sealed her second consecutive pentathlon title and raised her Division II pentathlon record to 4,193 points (it had previously been 4,064).
Over the course of two days at Myers Field House on the campus of Minnesota State University-Mankato, Lettow had already competed in an impressive three events. But if you count the pentathlon for what it really is — 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 — then the number rises to an arduous seven. She had also finished seventh in the individual long jump and competed in the 60-meter hurdles on Friday.
Yet there she was, five minutes after crossing the finish line in the 800 — and with other pentathletes still sprawled across the ground — strapping on a new pair of shoes for her eighth and final event, the individual high jump.
“I’m losing my voice from the 800,” an exhausted Lettow said after clearing 1.75 meters (5 feet, 8.75 inches), good for second in the high jump, and finally ending her competition. “My feet, my ankle, my heels are really sore from all the pounding and jumping.”
Lettow knew what she was getting into when she signed to compete for Central Missouri. Under co-head coach and 2000 U.S. Olympic decathlete Kip Janvrin, the Mules and Jennies multi-event athletes pride themselves on working hard. And they pride themselves on their results.
With 13 All-America honors and three national championships — she also won the 2011 outdoor heptathlon — Lettow is perhaps the most decorated Jennie.
But right behind Lettow in the pentathlon, redshirt sophomore Erin Alewine finished second this weekend while also breaking Lettow’s previous record with 4,124 points (a third Central Missouri pentathlete, sophomore Zoe Sharplin, was fifth heading into the final event but a fall in the 800 left her to 11th).
“They’ve told me before how they look up to me or think I’ve kind of helped pave the way,” Lettow said. “But they are just extremely talented and self motivated on their own, and I’m just very, very proud of them.”
The life of a multi-eventer is unavoidably demanding, especially under Janvrin. But that’s exactly why Lettow picked Central Missouri when she was coming out of Des Moines Christian High School in Iowa.
Lettow loves coming to the track and working on new events each day. She loves that she has a different pair of track spikes for all five events in the pentathlon — “It fills up your bag,” she says. And she loves that she is competing for the team.
It would be a lot easier for Lettow to simply focus on pentathlon and heptathlon — she hopes to compete the latter at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials this summer. But her individual events alone brought Central Missouri 10 extra points in the team competition this weekend; the Jennies ultimately finished fourth with 43.
“I’m so excited about the performance of all the Jennies today that I still feel pretty good,” Lettow said, amending her earlier point about how exhausted she was.
That satisfied exhaustion after a good meet is exactly why Lettow trains so hard in the first place.
“If I would have said three years ago or four years that she was going to put up these kind of marks I would have said no,” Janvrin said. “She’s a heck of a competitor; she works her butt off, does whatever I ask. What more could you want in an athlete?
“All I’ve got to do is make sure she’s doing the right things and she has the success.”