By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Maddie Holmberg has been very familiar with the sport of track and field for years. Holmberg has been competing ever since her dad and neighbor started a track club through her local YMCA.
"It was really just something fun that I was able to do with my friends during the summer time. There, I found my love for racing and competing," Holmberg said. "It is really great to see that since then the size of the club has grown dramatically. I am very thankful for that program and my dad for introducing my favorite sport to me at a young age."
One of the main reasons Holmberg chose to come to Penn State was because of coach Fritz Spence, the assistant track and field coach in jumps and multi-events. Holmberg said that he possessed many similar qualities to her high school coaches and felt very comfortable with the team chemistry here. Along with that, Holmberg also chose Penn State because her father was a student-athlete here, the excellent balance between athletics and academics, and it's close to home.
"I knew I wanted to commit immediately after my official visit. I always tell recruits that Penn State is the full package and that it sells itself," said Holmberg.
Although Holmberg has been familiar with competing in the sport for many years, her experience competing in the pentathlon has just began. During her recruitment process, many coaches felt that her versatility in hurdles, long jump and sprinting would make her a very successful multi-event athlete.
"I was not very familiar with the event prior to college. I cannot say that the event came naturally to me," Holmberg said. "I went through some growing pains with injury and frustration at times, but ultimately with hard work and coach Spence's faith in me, I was able to trust the process and see my hard work start to pay off."
The pentathlon is an athletic event that comprises of five different events for each competitor: 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800-meter race. For Holmberg, her favorite events are the ones that come most natural to her.
"I really like hurdles and long jump because those are the events most familiar to me. In those areas, I am expected to score the most points," Holmberg said. "However, over the years I have really learned to love shot put as well. While there is a lot more technique involved than most might think, it allows me to use my explosiveness and aggression."
Although those events are ones that Holmberg favors, there are many difficult aspects to being a pentathlete. Even though there are times she struggles, she loves the event for its all-around mental and physical component.
"Most people probably think the physical training or the 800 would be the hardest part of the pent. While that part definitely isn't easy, I would have say the mental side of things is the most difficult. Training for multiple events with different techniques requires a lot of focus and dedication," she said.
"It is important to build mental toughness during the meet. This allows you to put the previous event behind you and focus your energy on the next event. Staying level-headed and maintaining composure throughout the rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions is challenging. This is why I love the pentathlon, it pushes me not just physically, but also mentally to be the best all-around athlete that I can be," Holmberg added.
Holmberg most recently broke the 4000-point barrier at the Penn State National Open. Breaking this barrier (4,133) puts Holmberg at No. 3 in the NCAA in the pentathlon. Although breaking this barrier is a very impressive mark, Holmberg knows the hard work doesn't stop here.
"It is really satisfying to see my hard work pay off this season. I am so thankful for my motivational training group and coach Spence who help me to push my limits in practice," Holmberg said. "I still have many areas that I can improve, but I am very happy to look at how far I have come. I look forward to continuing to push that personal best in order to earn my team as many points as possible at the Big Ten Championship."