Jess Lehman, formerly Herauf, really isn’t a sprinter, nor is she a true mid-distance runner. She’s not a jumper or a thrower in the traditional sense either. Instead, she’s a bit of all of these things. As a multi-eventer for Gopher Women’s Track & Field, Lehman is her sport’s equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball, one who is asked to showcase skills from a disparate set of events throughout a typical meet.
During the indoor season, Lehman shows off her versatility in the pentathlon, a five-event test that features the 60-meter hurdles, an 800-meter race, high jump, long jump and shot put. When the team moves to the outdoor season in the spring, she’s asked to excel at an even greater number of disciplines in the heptathlon, which includes the 100-meter hurdles, a 200-meter race, an 800-meter race, high jump, long jump, shot put and javelin.
“It started in high school where I was a three-sport athlete,” said Lehman, who was a four-time letterwinner in basketball and volleyball in addition to earning six letters in track and field. “My track coaches just kind of threw me into any event. We experimented a lot.”
That experimentation had Lehman competing in an odd combination of events, ranging from mid-distance hurdles, to long jump, to javelin and the 800 meters, the latter two a particularly odd combination for any high school athlete.
“I think [Gopher head coach Matt] Bingle saw that and saw the three-sport athlete,” said Lehman when asked how anyone becomes a collegiate multi-eventer. “I think it’s just being a multi-eventer in high school.”
By accident or by design, Lehman’s foray into the world of multi-eventers has been a very successful experiment. Her sophomore season she was named Second Team All-American in the pentathlon, followed by earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors in the heptathlon that spring. As a junior, Lehman ruled multi-events at the conference level, sweeping both titles at the Big Ten indoor and outdoor meets that season and earning First Team All-American distinction by placing fifth in each during the NCAA Championships that year. In the process, Lehman has set – and in the case of the pentathlon set several times over – the program’s record scores in the events.
“That means a lot,” she said. “The first time I broke [a school record], it was really exciting. Hopefully it stays for a couple years.”
Rightly so, Lehman is proud of all that’s she’s accomplished during her time at Minnesota, but her pride doesn’t focus as much on her numbers as it does on her experience.
“Being a proud female athlete is really important right now, especially for younger athletes to see their role models,” she said. “It means a lot that I can be a role model to younger female athletes.”
While she stands out within her own program, Lehman sees herself among many when it comes to being a role model for the next generation of Gophers.
“The group of female athletes that are [at] the U, in this story or not, are just incredible people and athletes. More importantly, they’re great people.”
Track & Field/ Heptathlon
Dickinson, North Dakota
Three-Time Big Ten Champion
First Team All-American