Kara Hallock set a point total goal and an overall place she wanted to achieve at last month’s Pac-12 Conference heptathlon championship.
She reached both.
On her home track, at Oregon State’s Whyte Track & Field Center, Hallock set four outdoor personal bests on her way to second place and a personal-best 5,551 points, a total good enough to get her into the national meet.
Now it’s time for a new goal: All-American status with a top-eight finish.
Hallock, an OSU senior and Lebanon High graduate, is producing the best times and marks of her career as she heads into this week’s NCAA heptathlon competition at Hayward Field in Eugene.
“It was awesome to be able to perform well this time of year,” she said. “Just to see everything improving toward the end of the year was really awesome.”
Hallock needed to better her previous heptathlon total of 5,379 to stay among the top 24 in the nation to earn an NCAA berth for the two-day, seven-event competition.
She set her previous 100 hurdles PR of 14.16 seconds as a freshman at Lane Community College in 2013 and was starting to wonder this season if she would ever improve that time.
She finally did, to open the Pac-12 heptathlon, with a 13.90.
“It propelled me a lot, just starting off with a great PR,” Hallock said. “Great things are bound to happen after you start off like that.”
She followed that with first-day PRs in the shot put (38 feet, 5 inches) and 200 (25.20), and on the second day she threw the javelin 139-1 for another personal best.
Hallock credited the presence of her teammate and training partner Saskia McNairy, who was seventh at the Pac-12 heptathlon, for pushing her and helping her compete at her best.
Hallock had to wait more than a week for it to be official, but she finally got the news that she had reached a three-year goal and will be competing Friday and Saturday at the highest level of collegiate track and field.
But only after some highs and lows.
Hallock was twice a Northwest community college heptathlon runner-up while at Lane, helping the Titans to a pair of team titles. She was named the athlete of the meet in 2013 after scoring 42.5 points. She also won the 100 hurdles title in 2014.
She left Lane with school records in the 100 hurdles and heptathlon and transferred to Oregon State for the 2014-15 school year. She was within reach of an NCAA berth in 2015 when an injury kept her out of the Pac-12 championships and ended her season.
Hallock redshirted the 2016 season in an attempt to get healthy and work on the events that provided her lowest point totals.
At the top of the improvement list were the javelin and shot put, the heptathlon’s two throwing events. She’s shown the work she put in with the marks she’s produced this spring.
From 2015, Hallock’s last official outdoor season, she’s improved her best javelin mark by more than 35 feet and in the shot put by nearly seven feet. That’s an additional 338 points for Hallock, whose 5,551 PR tied for 22nd in the country this season. A total of 338 fewer points (5,213) would put her 64th.
Hallock credits that improvement to work in the weight room but largely to the help of OSU assistant coach David Dumble, whose Arizona State throwers produced 81 All-American honors in his 16 years in Tempe.
Oregon State multi-events coach Eric Schueffner says Dumble, who joined the program last September, excels in teaching the fundamentals. He focuses on the core movements, what those feel like for the athletes, and then adding speed.
“He has such a great understanding of the events,” Hallock said. “Getting Dumble has really helped me make sense of them.”
Dumble said Hallock is a good athlete and coachable with the focus of an outgoing senior intent on finishing on a high note.
As far as Hallock's big strides in the throwing events, he said, "a lot of it's just her learning the physics of the throw and what needs to happen."
Hallock carried over her success in the Pac-12 multi-event championships and took third in the Pac-12 long jump with a new PR at 19-10¾.
She was also ninth in the 100 hurdles, narrowly missing the final with a wind-aided 13.87 personal best. Two weeks later, she was 27th in the NCAA West Regional long jump at 19-8¼.
Schueffner says Hallock’s training has been strong in the past month with a focus on improving technique in certain areas. Dumble said she's found more consistency in her training, in particular with the javelin.
“Because she’s continued to progress technically in everything and getting sharper with it, getting faster, things are coming together,” Schueffner said.
Schueffner has seen Hallock raise her performance in all events and compete with a high intensity this season. He says 5,700 points or more are possible if Hallock is able to execute to her best abilities in each event, notably the high jump and 200.
“Kara has been really patient. She’s a good listener,” Schueffner said. “Talk about coach-ability, and she’s easy to work with, which has paid for her in huge dividends.”
Hallock, who graduates from Oregon State on June 16, will have a degree in public health and wants to possibly work in health promotion.
She has no plans to compete in the sport following the NCAA meet but wants to stay involved in track and field. That could be as a volunteer high school coach.
“I feel like it’s been a part of my life for so long, I won’t know what to do without it,” she said. “I’m going to have to find something to do with track.”