DES MOINES - Aurora Arevalo isn’t your prototypical heptathlete.
But, in many ways, it’s almost as if the Morningside senior was built specifically, or even naturally selected, for the event.
Most track and field athletes who move into the multi-events start out as hurdlers or jumpers, but not Arevalo.
Prior to starting her training for the heptathlon, Arevalo had never hurdled or jumped in her track and field career.
“I’m definitely a different kind of choice for a multi, because most of the girls who get switched to that are primarily jumpers and hurdlers, and I just came in as a sprinter and a thrower,” Arevalo said.
The former four-sport star for Lenox possessed a unique blend of speed, explosiveness and strength as a state track qualifier in the 200 meters and shot put. She was part of Lenox’s sprint medley relay team that finished third in Class 1A in 2015.
Arevalo spent three-plus years as starting catcher for the Lenox Tigers, which lended itself well to the javelin throw. And though she had never jumped prior to taking up the multis, high jump was in her blood – her mother Kathy (Nurnberg) Arevalo once held the Creston school record in the high jump.
Add it all together and Arevalo had the makings of a multi-event star. That star was born in 2018, when Arevalo finished third at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with a score of 4,749 to earn All-American status.
Arevalo, who currently ranks seventh nationally in the NAIA for heptathlon, ran the leadoff 200-meter leg of Morningside’s sprint medley relay at the Drake Relays Friday night and the 400-meter leg of the distance medley relay Saturday morning. She competes at the GPAC Championships at Mount Marty this weekend before returning to the national championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama, May 23-25.
“The GPAC is kind of stacked, especially this year, in terms of multi girls,” Arevalo said. “We’re taking up probably six of the top eight national qualifying spots.”
Taking on the heptathlon was a new challenge for Arevalo when she started training for it as a sophomore at Morningside.
The heptathlon is a grueling, two day marathon of an event that includes the 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meter dash, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meters, with contestants being scored based on hitting certain benchmark performances in each event. It tests an athlete’s mental and physical strength and toughness.
Arevalo had never attempted five of the seven events prior to starting her training.
“With the multis, it’s so much technique, so many things I have to get right with javelin and hurdles, especially. Hurdles is something that makes you real nervous because you have to get it just right,” Arevalo said.
Even though she never ran hurdles in high school, Arevalo found that to be an advantage for her.
“I think I probably would have had to four-step in high school and that can be pretty detrimental to a lot of hurdlers,” she said. “Even a mediocre three-stepper will beat a four-stepper just because it’s that one extra step and a little extra time.”
Now, even when she’s not competing in the heptathlon at a meet, Arevalo often finds herself competing in the hurdles in order to stay sharp.
She said it’s an event that still hasn’t “fully clicked” for her yet. She’s been running in the mid-to-low 15-second range and would like to dip below 15 seconds.
High jump has become a favorite event of hers, which she said made her mother Kathy happy.
“My mom was real happy when I got into high jump, and I found out real quickly it’s super fun,” Arevalo said. “She was like a kid in a candy shop when she saw me high jump.”
Running the 800 meters as part of the heptathlon has made Arevalo, who never ran more than a 400 in high school, stronger.
“I hate the 800 so much. Anything over a lap is just not my style,” she said. “It’s so painful. It’s definitely made me a lot stronger mentally because it’s a different kind of race. I have to approach things in a different way and really step out of my comfort zone for that.”
Competing in, and preparing for, the heptathlon is all about time management.
A biology and chemistry double major at Morningside, Arevalo fits technical practices, such as hurdles or jumps, in during the day between her classes and then gets a speed or endurance workout in after classes, all while working a job, as well.
Arevalo will not compete in the heptathlon at this weekend’s GPAC Championships in order to be fresh heading into the national championships.
Her biggest goal is to eclipse 5,000 points. She knows exactly what she needs to do in order to accomplish that goal after mapping it out with her coach Aaron Fuller, who was a multi-event competitor himself.
Currently, the top mark in the nation in NAIA is 5,001 points.
That game plan includes running 15.0 to 15.1 in the 100 meter hurdles, clearing 5-4 in the high jump, throwing in the high 37 to low 38-foot range in the shot put, running 25.2 or faster in the 200 meter dash, jumping farther than 5.1 meters in the long jump, throwing more than 40 meters in the javelin and running a 2:25 to 2:27 in the 800 meters.
“That will hopefully get me just over 5,000 points,” Arevalo said. “I’m not going to have the mentality of ‘I want to get first.’ I do want to get first, of course, but I think if I go at it with that mindset, I’m going to put too much stress on myself. I get wound very tight sometimes. I think if I go in with a goal of ‘I want to hit 5,000 points and wherever that gets me it gets me,’ that’s going to be what’s best for me.”
Crossing the 5,000-point barrier would add to Arevalo’s list of accomplishments during her track and field career.
Her track and field career is approaching its twilight, with a future in veterinary medicine on the horizon. She’s already been accepted to Iowa State University’s veterinary medicine program and will begin that program in the fall.
After Saturday’s distance medley relay at the Drake Relays, Arevalo reflected on her experiences running on the famed blue oval throughout her high school and collegiate careers.
“It’s been a great experience. Every time I’m here, even if I compete badly, in my opinion, it’s a great time,” she said. “I always have my teammates to really pick me up. I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss coming here and competing and, of course, on the days I come back and watch, I’m going to want to hop down on that track and run.
“I’m hoping I’m going to have a lot of family members that pick up track. I’ve got a nephew right now and he’s going to do something. I’m going to have a say in that. I’m going to miss it and I loved it here so much. It’s been like another home.”