NAPERVILLE, ILL. 3/8/13 – It's how you finish that counts.
Falling to sixth place after the shot-put, Keene State College's Janel Haggerty put on her rally cap and came up with personal best performances in the final two events, the long jump and 800-meter race, to capture the national championship in the five-event pentathlon at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships at Naperville, Ill. on Friday.
"It absolutely makes the hard work and training all worthwhile," said Haggerty, a senior from Guilford, Conn. "Who would've thought a girl without a track could become a national champion? I wasn't expecting it what so ever. I was hoping, praying for top –eight, but this just tops if all off."
"Janel has been working real hard and has been pretty consistent with all her marks, so I thought she had a realistic chance to win the national title," said KSC Coach Peter Thomas.
Haggerty got off to a good start finishing first in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.04, a hundredth of a second off her personal best time. Although she tied for third in her signature event the high jump (5'-03.00"), Haggerty still liked her chances. "I felt comfortable after the first two events. I was leading, but I knew anything could happen and anybody could pull out a big score at any time," she said.
Things started to unravel for Haggerty when she finished at the bottom of the pack in the shot put (27'06.00"). ". I knew she'd get back to All-American, but I thought her chances for a national championship were gone," said Thomas.
Haggerty had a little lady luck in the long jump. Despite falling in two of her three attempts, she managed to come up big jump, posting a personal best mark of 17'-00.75" to finish fourth and regain valuable points she had lost in the shot. "I was little upset after shot, so I took it out in long jump," said Haggerty. "It's an event you can be aggressive and take out all your anger and frustrations and that's exactly what I did."
"Some of the girls that were a head of her had bad jumps, so that opened up the door for her," said Thomas. "She pushed her way though it with a personal best time in the 800.
Staying close of on the shoulder of Tufts' Jana Hieber, Haggerty cruised to a second a place finish in the 800 (2:22.41) and the top spot on the NCAA podium.
Well rested and in shape for the formidable five-event challenge, Haggerty said she was able to stay focused through the event that last almost six hours.. "I didn't do as well as I would've liked in some of the events, but I was able to shake it off," she said.
Haggerty finished with a school record 3,467 points, beating Jessika Smith a junior from Wisconsin-Stout by second points.
Haggerty becomes the 21st track national champion for the Owls, and the first to earn the honor in the pentathlon.
With her work done, Haggerty can now sit back and watch Keene State;s other competitors, senior Maggie Fitter (Branford, Conn.) and junior Ryan Widzgowski (Camden, Maine).
Both Fitter and Widzgowski turned in impressive performances in their preliminaries races on Friday to move on to the finals.
Fitter finished third in the prelims of the 800 with a time of 2:11.03. Tara Clemens, a senior from Illinois Wesleyan had the top time of 2:10.11. Fitter is looking for her second All-America honor. She earned the recognition as a member of KSC's DMR team as a sophomore.
Widzgowski had a splendid debut on the NCAA stage, finishing second in the prelims of the mile with a time of 4:13.15. Coby Horowitz , a junior from Bowdoin, posted the best time of 4:13.01.
"Their relaxed and their confidence is up, so they'll be ready for tomorrow," said Thomas about Widzgowski and Fitter.
The finals of the women's 800 and the men's mile will take place on Saturday.