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ND Women’s Track and Field: Buttinger prepares for pentathlon championship

Joseph Monardo | Monday, February 13, 2012

Developing the strength to excel in shot put is difficult and displaying the grace to perform well in the high jump is no easier. Doing both simultaneously is nearly impossible.

Add in three other events, and you will have a sense of what senior multi-eventer Maddie Buttinger faces as she prepares for the Big East Indoor championships.

The Ontario native will compete in the pentathlon in New York for this weekend’s conference competition and the heptathlon at the Big East Outdoor championships later this season in May.

“It takes a certain mentality, I guess, because when you are just an individual event competitor, you sort of go to a meet and your focus is all on one event,” Buttinger said. “My old coach used to reference it … when you are hurdling, you are a hurdler. As soon as you take off your spikes you are the next event. So it is sort of like the mentality where it is different events within the bigger pentathlon.”

The indoor pentathlon consists of the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800-meter race. The multiple events require a considerable amount of extra practice time, Buttinger said.

“It is more training — we probably train the most because we are in here two or three different times a day for different events, but I used to do a bunch of different sports in high school, so I’ve always been used to going from event to event,” she said. “It definitely is hard, but it takes a specific type of person to do it.”

Buttinger, who also qualified to compete in the long jump and high jump events separate from the pentathlon, said she began thinking of herself as a pentathlete and heptathlete only late in her career.

“I guess I always sort of knew I was going to do it, but not until I got to college did I really focus on it,” she said. “When I was younger, I remember when people were telling me I was going to be a heptathlete, my original thought was, ‘No, I’d rather just do seven events and get seven medals versus doing seven events and get one medal.'”

For an athlete whose versatility is her biggest attribute, Buttinger eventually came to realize the pentathlon allowed her to make the most of her skills.

“I think it’s one of those things where I wasn’t amazing at one event, but I was pretty good at a lot, so it’s sort of like a jack-of-all trades events,” she said.

Although she devotes ample time to each of her events, Buttinger does not shy away from picking favorites.

“I really love the high jump and the 800[-meter run], which is kind of different because most multi-eventers hate the 800, so I guess it’s sort of an advantage that I have over my competitors,” she said. “Going into the last event [the 800-meter run], everybody is freaking out — and I get nervous for it, obviously — but not as much as other people, so it’s probably to my advantage.”

Buttinger’s second place finishes in both the high jump (1.73 meters) and the 800-meter run (2:18.58) helped her take second place in the heptathlon at last year’s outdoor conference championship.

Having never finished higher than second in the Big East Indoor championship and with a career best score of 3,922, Buttinger hopes to capture first place in her final conference indoor championship.

“I’ve been second place at Big East almost every year,” Buttinger said. “Right now, I am ranked first going into it … [but] there is a really good field this year. I would love to win it as a senior, that’s obviously my goal.”

But Buttinger has more than one goal in mind.

“I want to qualify [for the NCAA Indoor championships in March]. Right now I think I am twelfth on the list for NCAA’s — they take between 16 and 18 people, but you never know,” she said. “I also want to try to break the school record, which is 4,069. If I can do all those things, I should win. They should all kind of come together.”

The Irish will participate in the Big East championships all day Saturday and Sunday in New York.


Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu