The five-event pentathlon has been a contest derived from the Ancient Olympic Games in Greece with the first ever being documented in 708 B.C. Though some of the events within the pentathlon have been changed since, 2013 has seen Keene State College senior Janel Haggerty capture the national championship title at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in Naperville, Ill.
Falling to sixth place after competing in the shot-put, which was the third event, Haggerty of Guilford, Conn., pulled off an unthinkable triumph that saw her putting the greatest performances she’s ever had in the final two events, the long jump and 800-meter race.
“I cried after I found out that I won; my teammates were crying, my coaches were crying, but I think the whole process leading up to it means the most,” Haggerty said. “I think it’s amazing and it says a lot about what you can do with so little, not having the required facilities to be the best we can be here at school. That is just what makes it so important to me and it’s amazing, to be honest.”
Haggerty started the national meet with a first-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.04 and finished third in her signature event, the high jump (5’-03.00”). Her first place finish in the hurdles was attributed much to her work with assistant coach, Tom Pickering, who is also the coach for Monadnock High School’s track and field program, as well as being a teacher.
“We changed my lead leg, which is the leg that goes over first,” Haggerty said. “It was just a minor change but that drastically had me decreasing time every single meet getting faster and faster. Tom Pickering goes above and beyond to help me out and to meet me. We drive an hour a day once a week to the Dome in Milford, N.H. to do hurdles and long jump. He’ll film me and pick apart my approaches to hurdles and long jump going out of his way to make sure that I’m going to do well.”
Pickering keeps a busy schedule, being a contributor to two different athletic programs in the area but has been able to set away enough time for Haggerty to be able to thrive in nationals.
“As one of her coaches these past two years, knowing some of the challenges she has overcome to develop into one of the top D-III athletes in the country, it was a feeling of great excitement and happiness for [Haggerty] to see her come on so strong this winter and peak at the NCAA championship meet,” Pickering said. “I do not think she entered her senior indoor campaign expecting to stand at the top of the podium at nationals.”
When Head Coach Pete Thomas of the men’s and women’s track and field teams saw that Haggerty finished at the bottom of the barrel at fifteenth in the shot-put (27’06.00”), he said he became skeptical of Haggerty’s bid for a national title. But nothing could prepare him for the best performances of Haggerty’s career in the final two events.
After fouling out in the long jump a year ago, Haggerty ceased the downward fall to the bottom of the standings, posting a personal best mark of 17’-00.75” finishing fourth and retaining valuable points that she had lost before in the shot-put.
“Every meet was treated as if this is the one day and it’s make or break, so when I got to Nationals I think that’s why I was more relaxed about it because I felt as if I had done it so many times before,” Haggerty said.
When Haggerty finished second in the 800-meter (2:22.41), a race diligently overseen by head coach Pete Thomas, she found herself on top of the NCAA podium receiving top honors and a national title in her second effort participating in the pentathlon.
“Staying healthy was the difference for Haggerty this year,” Thomas said. “She learned from that experience, both being relaxed and staying focused, taking one event at a time. What you did in the previous event doesn’t mean anything until you get the event you’re doing at the present time. Having that experience of having gone through that last year really helped her out some.”
Haggerty is the first to win a national title for the KSC Track and Field program since 2009, and the first female athlete to win a national title since 2008, when Assistant Coach Crystal Blamy captured the national D-III indoor and outdoor high jump championship as a senior. Blamy has worked extensively with Haggerty over the years and has provided a strong position in training Haggerty in one of her strongest events at the pentathlon.
“I’ve been to Nationals before and nothing sticks at Nationals, anything could happen,” Blamy said. “She really did well in the long jump and the 800 because she realized that I want this and I’m going to push myself. It was amazing and such a good feeling as a coach because I won a National title in the high jump, but seeing the athlete that you coached do it is extremely amazing.”
Blamy still holds the D-III high jump national record and her experience fortified Haggerty’s position in the pentathlon, a fortification that Haggerty spoke fondly of.
“[Blamy] has the Division III high jump record here as well as a national title in the high jump so thank God she stayed around for a little bit but I’m so thankful for her because she has experience and knows what it’s like to high jump,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty is a student athlete who has excelled both on and off the field. Every coach she has at KSC has described her as one of the most prolific, driven and passionate students they had ever come by.
Fortunately enough, Haggerty’s career isn’t over at KSC as both an athlete and a student. Now being a senior who is anticipating graduation this coming May, her excitement for the what the spring outdoor season has in store is undeniable.
“Fortunately, her career’s not over yet,” Pickering said. “I got a text message from her a few days after Indoor Nationals saying ‘Pumped for outdoors! Woo hoo!’”
Passionate athletes are what every coach falls asleep every night dreaming of.
When it comes to Haggerty, those kind of athletes are the ones coaches find and never even dreamed of being in existence.
They’re the type of athletes who put in their heart and soul just to win it all.
Dalton Charest can be contacted at