(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Lauren Heggen’s win in the triple jump at the Texas A&M High School Classic over the weekend.)
MISSOULA — As the holiday break comes to a close and schools and athletics return to normal schedules, many athletes will also resume their training routines in 2019. But for some, those routines never stopped. For Missoula Sentinel superstar Lauren Heggen, track and field training never ends.
While other high school student-athletes may spend their offseason hanging out with friends, relaxing with family or simply taking it easy, Heggen is in the gym working on box jumps, power cleans and other vigorous workouts.
“Lifting with (Missoula-area trainer) Doug Lefler, it’s pretty crazy the lifts we’ve been doing. It’s a lot more agility and tire flips, pulls, power cleans and stuff like that working my fast-twitch muscles, which are really important for track athletes, that explosion in jumping, especially,” said Heggen, the defending Class AA state champion in the 100-meter hurdles and triple jump, where she set the all-class record at 39 feet, 7 inches. “Building core and core power and strength, I’ve seen a difference, for sure, in my endurance and everything. The workouts, I lift two or three times a week, about an hour each, but it’s go, go, go, go, go. There isn’t much rest in-between, so it’s pretty intense, but it’s good. I’ve noticed a difference, so that’s good.”
Lefler’s workouts are no joke, though Heggen did chuckle after older brother Slade, a former Missoula Mavericks standout and current Division I baseball player at Gonzaga, joined her for some Lefler conditioning over the summer, “nearly getting sick,” she laughed.
Lauren Heggen has certainly seen her share of pain through Lefler’s drills, but the results, she says, have been noticeable.
“My legs are getting a lot stronger, and my core, for sure. My power cleans have gone up like 26 pounds in a month, that was crazy insane. (Lefler) also works a lot on the mental side of things, which is really important, especially for races like the 400 and 800, which I might be incorporating into my events,” Heggen said. “We go into the workout not knowing what we’re going to do, it’s different every single time and that’s really important, because it teaches you to be uncomfortable in that state, but also being comfortable being uncomfortable, if that makes any sense. It’s interesting, but it’s definitely helping my mental attitude toward everything. It’s crazy.”
“I knew that lifting was a big component of track, but I never knew it would be like this, honestly,” she continued. “I never thought it would be this intense. I work out with Erica and Mijah McLeod, they both compete in track for the Montana Grizzlies. They’re great, awesome athletes, so it’s great to have them pushing me, as well. It’s a good environment that Lefler has there, it’s pretty amazing.”
While Lefler, along with Missoula Sentinel jumps coach Khalin Anderson, handle a good portion of Heggen’s offseason training, her ventures have also taken her outside Montana in an attempt to chase more opinions, coaching and training regimens.
“We have reached out to a man named Nate Wilford, he had a jumper down at the Rio Olympics (Washington’s Andrea Geubelle) and he’s a pretty great coach, really amazing and respected amongst the track community nationwide, for sure. He’s in Seattle and last spring I went out there to Seattle, and I had one training session with him and we’ve been communicating via video since then,” said Heggen. “He’ll give me some input. Down at (National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships), he was there and we were able to get some input from him during my triple jump. That was really helpful.”
Like Lefler, Wilford is no-nonsense and straight to the point, says Heggen, who appreciates the constructive criticism.
“There are so many little things wrong with my jumps it’s actually insane. He’ll nitpick every little thing,” she said of Wilford. “I respond very well to criticism in that sense. He’s a pretty direct coach, doesn’t give you many compliments, so the criticism is sometimes difficult to hear, but it’s also very good because it tells you that you have so much more to give and there’s so much more inside you that can get you to that next level.”
Heggen is already flirting with that line. As a 16-year-old competing in the 17-18 division this summer, she placed seventh in the triple jump at the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Championships, soaring 39 feet, 5 inches, capturing all-American accolades, her second such honor, in the process.
Heggen wasn’t the only Treasure State standout to perform well in Greensboro, N.C. at the event, with Helena’s Trey Tintinger and Tyse Todorovich winning national titles, while fellow Sentinel stars like Ashley McElmurry, who recently signed with the University of Nebraska, and her sisters also finding success.
“It’s an honor, for sure. It’s pretty special, especially getting out to represent Montana because there aren’t too many Montana athletes that get their names out there, but it’s great to be able to put Montana on the map as a track hub, for sure,” said Heggen. “We have upcoming athletes, too — Emily McElmurry is a stud, so is Ashley, obviously, and Audrey. They were all at USA Track Nationals and it was great having them there as friends and stuff. Trey, obviously, he’s a three-time champion or whatever, so that’s cool for Montana. It’s great having these athletes getting out there. It’s great.”
It’s a feeling Heggen recalls during each tiring workout in her offseason, if you can call it that.
The jumping sensation added another accolade to her already impressive resume over the weekend, winning the Texas A&M High School Classic’s triple jump competition, sailing 11.84 meters (38 feet, 10.75 inches). Heggen’s best mark was three inches better than the runner-up. She also competed in the long jump and 60-meter hurdles, finishing ninth in the long jump with a mark of 5.28 meters (17 feet, 4 inches).