Lizzy Gillingham flies through the air during the long jump portion of the pentathlon she competed in during the Summit Conference championships.

Gillingham flashes versatility at SDSU

Minneota native earns All-Summit League

Lizzy Gillingham, who was a standout runner for the Canby/Minneota track team, recently earned All Summit League honors at the Summit League Championship at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
To achieve All Summit League, an athlete must place in the top three in an event at the conference championships. Gillingham, a sophomore at South Dakota State University in Brookings, competed in the distance medley relay (400 leg) and the 4x400 relay, as well as the pentathlon on Feb. 25-26. Her medley relay team placed second in a time of 12:01.23 and the 1600 relay team was third in a time of 3:49.92.
Gillingham was 11th in the pentathlon with a personal best 3,075 points.
While running for Canby/Minneota, Gillingham competed in the 100, 200, 400, long jump and relays. She qualified for state her junior year in the 4x200 relays and her senior year in the 4x400 relay.
She has now expanded her versatility to include the demanding pentathlon, a competition consisting of five events (similar to men's 10-event decathlon). The pentathlon events are the 60 hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and the 800. Points are accumulated based on times and distances.
"Once everyone competing in it has finished one event, a timer is set for 30 minutes, and then the next event begins," explained Gillingham, the daughter of Brad and Diane Gillingham of Minneota. "You can't completely bomb in one event, but you do not have to be extremely good at all of them. There isn't a pentathlon at every meet as you can't physically recover from them fast enough."
Gillingham only competed in one pentathlon as a freshman in the indoor season as she competed in sprints in the other meets. The outdoor season was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
"Last year during fall training I got a stress fracture and ended up having to sit out all of the indoor and most of the outdoor, so I took all of last year off from doing the multis (pentathlon)."
Gillingham had never competed in four of the five pentathlon events prior to attending college. The only one she had competed in was the long jump.
"The multis, in general, are very demanding," she said. "Every week at practice not only do you have to try in get in all the specific event work in, but also get spring workouts in, too, to be competitive in them.”
"There’s only so much you can do every week while being productive and having enough energy. I compete in open sprints when there isn’t a pentathlon, so I have to try and keep a balance of working on sprints while learning the technique side of things for the pentathlon."
Gillingham noted that hurdles and high jump are the most difficult for her.
"Running full speed at hurdles and stepping over them was scary for me at first," she said. "I was pretty bad at it. It took a lot of time to get comfortable doing them so I could actually make progress.”
"For high jump, it's the most technical event there is in track. I am still trying to figure out how to put all of it together which makes me excited because once I can figure it out, I will add a lot of points to my pentathlon score."
The outdoor season for Gillingham and her teammates begins on March 24-25 in Emporia, KS. Once that season begins, Gillingham will compete in the seven-event heptathlon, which adds the 200 dash and the javelin throw, while the 60 hurdles are replaced by the 100 hurdles.
Due to increased training and maturity, Gillingham's times and distances have improved significantly from her high school track days.
Gillingham has set some goals for herself this season.
"My goal for outdoor season is to make the conference roster and score points for my team," she said. "It would be really fun if we could beat NDSU. If I can continue to improve my sprinting times, continue to chip away at the multi, and stay healthy, I should be able to make some relay teams again and be in scoring position for the heptathlon."
Gillingham is majoring in Human Biology (Pre-Dental) and minoring in Health Science and Psychology.

Lizzy Gillingham with the two medals she earned at the Summit Conference championships in late February. Contributed photo

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