SEC INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Herman all way 'back' after pentathlon victory

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2019
Arkansas' Kelsey Herman (left) celebrates Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, after winning the pentathlon during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Kelsey Herman (left) celebrates Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, after winning the pentathlon during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Kelsey Herman was exhausted, but ecstatic.

A year after Herman missed the track and field season because of stress fractures in both shins, the University of Arkansas senior from Crossett won the pentathlon Friday night at the SEC Indoor Championships at the Randal Tyson Center.

Herman won with a personal-best 4,330 points to edge Georgia sophomore Aliyah Whisby, who was second with 4,305.

"It feels amazing," Herman said. "I've been waiting on this day since my freshman year competing with some of the best athletes in the SEC. Now being able to have my chance to do it, it's so good."

Herman provided one of three titles for No. 1-ranked Arkansas on the meet's first day, along with junior Taylor Werner winning the 5,000 meters in 16:18.39, and the Razorbacks taking the distance medley relay in 11:21.98 with the team of Devin Clark, Paris Peoples, Meghan Underwood and Carina Viljoen.

Alabama leads through five of 17 finals scored with 35 points, with Arkansas in second place with 30 points, but the Razorbacks are set up to win the title. The Razorbacks advanced 14 in the sprints and middle-distance events to finals today and have their strong pole vault contingent going, led by seniors Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard, twin sisters from Cabot who have won a combined five SEC titles.

"Honestly, I think we're ahead of schedule," Razorbacks Coach Lance Harter said. "The kids have done a fantastic job."

Arkansas senior Payton Chadwick, from Springdale Har-Ber, had the top qualifying time in the 60 hurdles (7.98) and second-fastest in the 200 (23.02). Razorbacks junior Kiara Parker advanced in the 60 and 200, and sophomore Janeek Brown advanced in the 60 and 60 hurdles.

"I'm absolutely elated," Harter said. "The way we're set up for [today] is going to be exciting for our fans."

Herman went into the pentathlon 800 meters -- the last of her five events -- leading Whisby by 31 points.

"It was tough, I felt a little burn," Herman said. "But when you have a girl behind you by 31 points, and she can't beat you by more than two seconds, you have to give it your all.

"It's at home. I've got to defend the house."

Whisby finished ahead of Herman in the 800, but by less than a half-second -- 2:20.33 to 2:20.81.

"All I could think about was staying in her pocket," said Herman, whose time was her best indoors for the 800. "When I got to the last 100, I just sprinted. I forgot how tired I was or how much it hurt."

Herman had a personal-best 8.29 in the 60 hurdles to open the pentathlon, then went 5-8 in the high jump, tossed the shotput 40-4¾, and long-jumped 20-4¼ to lead going into the 800.

"If there's someone that deserves an SEC title, it's Kelsey," Harter said. "She has sacrificed so much and had to overcome some health issues that were very challenging. I couldn't be more proud of her."

Werner also overcame an injury that caused her to miss last year's outdoor season when she underwent back surgery.

"I'm all healed up," she said. "I feel perfectly healthy again."

Werner won the 5,000 by more than 10 seconds after shooting to the lead midway through the race when the paced slowed.

"I was looking at [Harter] like, 'Hey, when do you want me to go?' " she said. "He was like, 'You're good,' so I just took off and it played out really well."

Werner, who said she has plenty left in the tank for today's 3,000, watched some of Herman's events before running the 5,000.

"I'm super happy for her," Werner said. "I know she went through a lot last year, so to see her thrive and win the SEC title is really inspiring. That really fired up our team a lot."

Herman said she wasn't sure how she'd do in the pentathlon coming off her injuries, and at times having to miss practice to rest.

"I didn't think I'd be able to win an SEC title," Herman said. "But I trusted the process, I trusted God, I trusted my doctors, my trainers, my coaches.

"Now I'm back."

Sports on 02/23/2019

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