Megan Wallace sets national record for the heptathlon

UW-Eau Claire Blugold athlete breaks 28-year-old track and field record


Wallace reaches for the finish line in the 100 hurdles at the 2019 NCAA Division III national championship. ©Dan Schwamberger

To prepare for her first heptathlon of the season, Megan Wallace took the typical steps she takes when preparing for a meet by packing her backpack, making a lunch and trying to get a good night of sleep before the two-day event at UW-La Crosse.

“For me it was just another meet obviously I had my goals,” Wallace said. “I tried to do everything like I normally would.”

Wallace said she went into the meet with the hopes of breaking UW-Eau Claire’s heptathlon record:  4,785, set by Sarah Glidden in 2016.

On April 17, Wallace broke the 28-year-old NCCA Division III national record for the heptathlon with 5,471 points, breaking the previous record of 5,467 set by Kim Oden of Nebraska Wesleyan set in 1992.

“I expected her just to have a good heptathlon,” said Chip Schneider, head track and field coach at UWEC. “If I’m being honest, I just wanted her to have a good enough meet to get to nationals. I never expected things to go the way they did.”

The seven-event heptathlon is split into two days. The first day consists of the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put, and the 200-meter dash.

“It was a good day one,” Wallace said. “I broke four personal records which I felt pretty good about.”

Schneider said that he didn’t look at Wallace’s score after day one.

“Honestly, by the end of day one, I want to sleep just as much as my athletes do. She had a good day, all I thought was that ‘okay, she can have an average day two and she should be good for nationals.’ I still had no idea she was on track to break the record.”

Day two of the heptathlon starts with long jump, then javelin and finally the 800-meter run.

“Going into day two, I tried not to think about what happened on day one,” Wallace said. “I tried to go in with a fresh mindset just to make each event the best I could.”

Neither Schneider nor Wallace realized at this point that Wallace was on track to set a new national record.

“I didn’t even think about the scores,” Schneider said. “Until one of the decathletes came up to me before she ran the 800 and showed me that if she ran a 2:22, she’d have the record.”

Jordan Lacey, a decathlete on the track team, had been calculating and tracking Wallace’s score throughout the two-day event.

“It started off with long jump that day, she jumped 5.77 meters, that was a lot more than we expected,” Lacey said. “And then she threw 39.55 meters and based on the scores, I thought all she needed to run was a 2:22:5 in to the 800 to get the record.”

Wallace ended day two of the heptathlon with a 2:23:49 in the 800.

“After the race we all thought she had just missed the record,” Schneider said. “We thought she need to run a 2:22 to get it but it turns out she just needed a 2:23, and she did it.”

After Wallace crossed the finish line, she still had no clue about the record.

“I knew it was going to be a pretty decent score, but I don’t like to look at my point totals until after the last event,” Wallace said. “When they first told me, it was a huge shock. I had tears in my eyes right away.”

Schneider said he had to give Wallace some space after her final event to enjoy the moment with her teammates but also for him to process what she had just accomplished.

“National records aren’t broken every day,” Schneider said. “You don’t coach for as long as I have and get surprised, this surprised me. I’ll be honest, I wanted to cry I was so proud.”

Wallace said that it took her a few days to wrap her head around the new record she set.

“I have to give some credit to my teammates and my coaches,” Wallace said. “The multi-event athletes are normally the first ones to practice and the last ones to leave. We are all struggling together, pushing each other to be better and wanting each other to be better.”

Lacey said that watching Wallace break the national record was emotional for him.

“Everyone overlooks division III athletics, even though we build great athletes here,” Lacey said. “It was really nice to see everything she has been working for finally come to fruition and show how good D3 athletes are.”

Schneider said he is cautiously optimistic for the rest of Wallace’s season.

“I think it would be unrealistic to think she will go forward and break all her personal records again in every event,” Schneider said. “That being said, I’m still hopeful for the rest of her season.”

“On a personal note, her record means a lot to me,” Schneider said. “I want to win, I like winning, but also I want the people I am working with to be happy. I am glad she got this record, for her sake.”

Wallace will be attending Marquette University in the fall pursing a master’s degree in speech pathology as well as continuing her track and field career.

Wallace and her teammates have four more meets until the NCAA championship on May 27 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“My goals for the rest of the season are to win conference, as the women’s team,” Wallace said. “And personally, I want to win nationals. I want the whole thing.”

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