Farmington High junior wins heptathlon national championship

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Farmington Press | Published July 2, 2012

Even as her score was repeated a few times over a loud speaker, Farmington High student Aaron Howell still couldn’t believe what had just happened.

In her first time out, the junior had won the 2012 New Balance Heptathlon National Championship. The 21-year-old showcase, which took place June 14-16 in Greensboro, N.C., attracts some of the best athletes from around the country.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Howell, who will be a senior at Farmington High in the fall. “Even though my score was announced over and over again, I couldn’t really believe it. It was pretty cool because there were a lot of people there and a lot of really good athletes.”

A heptathlon consists of seven events: the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 run, long jump, javelin and 800 run. The first four take place on the first day, and the last three take place on the second day.

Howell’s performance will have much more of a lasting effect than she could have anticipated.

She scored the second most points — 5,071 — in the history of the meet.

“I had no idea that was going to happen. I just wanted to try to perform well because it was a tough process getting ready for the heptathlon,” said Howell, a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 track and field all-state performer.

“The season was over, so I was training one on one with coaches, and that’s not something that happens a lot.”

Farmington High girls track and field coach Kim Sturm, who coached Howell in the throwing events at the New Balance competition, said the hard work Howell puts in daily paid off big in Greensboro.

“She’s always highly competitive, but she was just at a different level at the championships,” Sturm said. “Being there to see her put everything together and perform so well was an awesome thing to be a part of.”

Howell, the MHSAA D-1 runner-up in the long jump, began the meet with personal records in the first four events. After finishing fifth in the 100 hurdles (15.13 seconds), she won the high jump (5 feet, 6.25 inches) and the shot put (37-1.75). Her shot put throw was 6 feet better than her previous personal best.

The Farmington student’s two wins put her in the lead, but the point totals remained close after she finished third in the 200 dash (25.79) and long jump (17-7).

Howell, who competes in the long jump, high jump and hurdles for the Falcons, won the javelin competition with a throw of 118-8 — more than 3 feet farther than the second-place finisher. She had never thrown a javelin until the New Balance event, she said.

“I’ve practiced holding and released the javelin, but that was with a guy’s javelin,” Howell said. “It’s tough to see it once you let it go, but it just felt right when I let it go. It felt really good.”

Howell finished seventh in the 800 run with a time of 2:27.31. That wasn’t enough to close her substantial points lead or put her in danger of dropping out of the top spot.

Howell doesn’t believe the win will be the highlight of her prep career. She said she hopes to qualify for nationals and will look to battle her way to a spot in the Junior Olympics.

“And I’m definitely planning on doing track and field in college,” Howell said. “I’m not 100 percent sure where, but I have some ideas.”