Champions all start somewhere. Technically, Kansas University sophomore Lindsay Vollmer started on her way toward a national championship in the heptathlon at the age of 8, when she took up track and field, the sport her parents competed in during college.
It took Vollmer’s high school coach, who also happens to be her father, to direct her to the right path, the one that would give her the highest ceiling as an athlete. Mark Vollmer, a member of the Wayne State College athletic hall of fame for his school-record-setting performances in the triple jump and javelin, coached his daughter at Penney High in Hamilton, Mo. His wife, Missy Stoltenberg, was a standout hurdler at Wayne State.
Track and field was in Lindsay’s blood, but according to her, she was never the best at any one event.
“My dad was like, ‘Why don’t we give this a shot?’ Combine everything. It just started to mesh,” Vollmer said. “Everything started to click. I love the switching of events and getting to do everything.”
That doesn’t mean she loves every event.
“The one that’s definitely the most challenging for me is the 800,” Vollmer said of the last event of the seven over two days. “For me, I don’t really have an event that I excel in. I’m just kind of well-rounded. I do well in each of the events. That’s what makes me a little bit of a threat sometimes.”
As a freshman, Vollmer placed 18th at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Seventeen places is a lot to improve in one year. She obviously pushed herself hard.
Not all heptathlon athletes divide their training time in the same manner, Vollmer said.
“There are some events I know that if I take a couple of weeks off I’ll be fine at,” she said. “Once you’ve done something for so long, it kind of gets ingrained. The ones I struggle at we spend more time on.”
“Probably high jump for me,” she said. “I’ve done that since I was little, and hurdles. They’re finally getting to click this year. I’ve kind of fallen in my groove with it, and it’s something I don’t have to practice much anymore.”
On the first day at the Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., Vollmer finished seventh in the 100-meter hurdles, sixth in the high jump, 11th in the shot put and fifth in the 200 meters. On the second day, she placed third in the long jump, first in the javelin and 13th in the 800. When she won 10 points for the team Friday for winning the heptathlon, that’s when Kansas looked like a strong favorite to win its first national outdoor championship in women’s track, which became a reality Saturday night.
Vollmer has two remaining years of eligibility at Kansas. She is well aware that she is not the only phenom in her event living in Lawrence. Vollmer is more than a little familiar with the feats of Free State High’s multi-event standout Alexa Harmon-Thomas. (KU’s first outdoor national championship came two weeks after Harmon-Thomas led the Free State girls team to its first outdoor state title.)
“I actually know her personally,” Vollmer said of Harmon-Thomas. “I used to do summer track meets with her. She’s a great athlete. I hope she comes to KU, honestly, because she would come my senior year. It would be great to train with her. Her potential … sky’s the limit for her. I think she’s going to be great at what she does.”
Even though Vollmer claims not to be great at any one event, she’s the greatest in the nation at combining seven events in two days, and she has two more chances to add to the top shelf of her trophy case.