Lauren Huebner places third at track and field championship

Junior Lauren Huebner competes during a home event earlier this year. Huebner earned third at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships, qualifying her as an All-American. Vanguard Photo | Jolie Wyse

Junior Lauren Huebner brought home third place and All-American honors from the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, March 8, and Saturday, March 9.

Huebner had a sensational performance in the heptathlon and secured the SVSU women’s track and field program its first All-American since 2017.

Huebner, a native of Swan Valley, finished first in the 60-meter hurdles, 10th in the high jump, eighth in the shotput, fifth in the long jump and second in the 800-meter run.

She had a combined 3,823 points in the five-event contest featuring both track and field events.

“It starts before nationals,” said Jason Hartmann, associate head track and field coach. “ … Lauren’s done a lot of the grunt work to perform at the level that she did. She performed phenomenally and had a great overall experience.”

Her finish in the 60-meter hurdles broke the school record, as did her overall point finish.

“It was very exciting,” Huebner said. “I keep thinking about when I finished the 800, the last event. I crossed the line, and I knew I was All-American and I hugged my athletic trainer, hugged my mom and hugged my sister. It was just really, really exciting.”

The pentathlon event began early on Saturday and continued for much of the day, as the athletes worked through the five events. There were 30 minutes between the conclusion of each event that served as a break for the athletes and allowed them to warm up for the next event.

Such an event requires an athlete with a diverse skillset who is able to compete successfully in very different events, such as the 800-meter run and the shotput.

“In the multi-events, you’re usually either a jumper that gets thrown into some running or you’re like me – you’re a runner that gets thrown into some field events that you’re not as familiar with,” Huebner said. “It’s a lot of opportunity to experience new things. That’s one thing I love about it.”

While the All-American honors are certainly the most impressive accolades of Huebner’s career thus far, she is no stranger to athletic success.

In addition to being an All-State volleyball player at Swan Valley High School, she also holds eight school records in track and field, which accounts for nearly half of all high school events that athletes can compete in.

Huebner’s high school coach at Swan Valley, Mario Guerrero, who now serves as the co-head coach of Freeland High School’s track and field program, was a two-time All-American himself at SVSU in the high jump in 2002 (outdoor) and 2003 (indoor).

The two first met when Guerrero was student-teaching Huebner’s middle school gym class. Guerrero knew very early on that she would be a star once she reached high school.

“She stood out then as one of the better athletes in her group and had just phenomenal talent,” he said. “She’s one of those athletes that you never have to worry about. She’s trying her hardest all the time. As great of an athlete as she is, she’s a better person. As far as her high school career, she was All-Everything – All-Conference, All-County, All-Region, All-State, multiple times in all of them.”

She was named All-State 10 times, was honored on several local Dream Teams, participated in the 2016 Midwest Meet of Champions for Team Michigan, was a state champion in the 300-meter hurdles in 2015 and was named both the Saginaw County Spring Athlete of the Year and the Saginaw County Female Athlete of the Year during her high school career.

Guerrero and Huebner both recall that in high school, Guerrero specifically told Huebner that she would be an All-American before her career was through.

“I was like, ‘No, no way,’” Huebner said.

Guerrero said he never had any doubts.

“I told her, ‘You are that good,’” he said. “She followed everything: diet, sleep, everything. As much as anyone could possibly do, she did. I’m as proud as possible.”

While the pentathlon was the event Huebner qualified for at NCAAs, she has seen great success in nearly any running event 800-meters or less.

When she first arrived at SVSU, she planned to specialize in the 400-meter hurdles, but when she began her sophomore campaign, the coaching staff decided to try her in the pentathlon.

She missed the championship by just one place a year ago, her first year competing in the event. While disappointing at the time, that experience helped keep Huebner motivated throughout the indoor season.

“I trained a lot over the summer,” she said. “Last year I was pretty awful at shotput, so I worked out a lot, and at our first practices in the fall, I was throwing way farther than I was (the year before). Going into the first meet all I could think was, ‘Let’s do it now.’”

During that meet, the SVSU Holiday Open, Huebner won the pentathlon and broke the school record in the process, effectively qualifying her for nationals almost immediately.

She was ranked second in the nation at that point and entered NCAAs at season’s end ranked seventh. Upon her All-American finish, the entire SVSU program celebrated along with her.

“As a coaching staff, we know how talented she is,” Hartmann said. “She’s very team-oriented and will lay it on the line for the team. Being able to see her put it together, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise.”

Four other SVSU athletes also competed at NCAAs. Freshman Casey Williams placed 14th in the men’s long jump, senior Allison Dorr placed 19th in the women’s 5,000-meter run, senior Tom Goforth placed 14th in the men’s 5,000-meter run and senior Ryan Kelly placed 13th in the men’s shotput.

With the outdoor season set to begin next weekend and one year of competition still to go beyond that, Huebner has her sights set on being a national champion.

Guerrero, who still contacts his former athlete periodically with tips and pointers, is confident she will do just that.

“She’s gone nowhere but up,” he said. “A national championship is not out of reach and now that she can see it, she’s going to go get it.”

Connor Doyle

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