The 2016 spring track and field season was “kind of a get-healthy year, get-better year” for Kara Hallock.
The Lebanon High graduate was just a few days from the Pac-12 multi-event meet in 2015 when an injury kept her from competing.
Hallock, now a senior at Oregon State, used her redshirt last spring in an effort that worked for her both academically and athletically.
She got stronger, faster and developed better technique in the seven events that make up the heptathlon, a two-day competition that tests endurance as well as an athlete’s ability in running, jumping and throwing.
Hallock enters this week’s conference heptathlon championships in 25th place in the NCAA rankings, the same spot she found herself at the same time two years ago. The top 24 make the NCAA meet, held the second week of June in Eugene.
Oregon State will host the Pac-12’s multi-event meet Saturday and Sunday at the Whyte Track & Field Center.
Hallock got her breakthrough at the Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, Arizona, in early April.
She set or equaled personal bests in five of seven events to finish second in the heptathlon with 5,379 points, beating her previous best from 2015 by 292 points.
Despite the success, Hallock said she didn’t reach any of the times or marks she was shooting for at the meet.
“So I think there’s still lots of room to improve, which is really exciting,” she said.
She sees her results in Tucson as validation for taking last year off.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Hallock said. “Definitely just showing all the hard work over the past nine years of my track career have definitely paid off and that’s nice to see.”
Hallock says her health is good, nothing beyond the expected aches and pains of someone with such a busy practice schedule.
That puts her in good position to make the necessary jump she’ll need to reach the NCAA championships.
“She’s definitely put her name on the national level. It’s been really cool,” OSU head coach Kelly Sullivan said.
Hallock’s year off also coincided with the September 2016 addition of new Oregon State assistant coach Dave Dumble, considered one of the top throwing events coaches in the country.
Dumble, at Arizona State the past 16 years, has coached more Division I All-American throwers in the last 12 years than anyone else, Sullivan said.
Hallock has seen significant improvements in the javelin and shot put, the two throwing events in the heptathlon.
This spring, she’s bettered her 2015 best in the shot put by more than six feet and in the javelin by more than 26 feet. She credits Dumble with helping her makes those jumps.
Hallock was a standout at Lebanon and then at Lane Community College for two seasons before coming to Corvallis in 2014.
She was a two-time Northwest Athletic Conference runner-up at Lane. She continued her success in the long jump and 100-meter hurdles, events in which she won 5A state titles as a Lebanon senior in 2012.
Being a super-competitive person, Hallock said not winning nearly every event as she did at Lane made for a difficult transition when she transferred to Oregon State.
“My first year was kind of rough, but I feel like it’s made me a lot mentally stronger and helped me be a better athlete,” she said.
Hallock’s success hasn’t stopped in the outdoor season.
She’s improved her placing in the indoor season-ending Mountain Pacific Sports Federation pentathlon each of the last three seasons, from seventh in 2015 to fifth in 2016 to third this year. Her personal-best 3,914 points at this year’s meet is second best in school history.
She’s carried that over onto the track and is within reach of her ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA championship meet.
To get there she’s shooting for 5,500 points, a total she believes will safely put her within the top 24 at the end of the season.
Hallock’s 5,379, good for third on Oregon State’s all-time list, is fourth among Pac-12 competitors this spring. The season bests of the second and third seeds are 5,438 and 5,420.
Only one in the field — Washington State’s Alissa Brooks-Johnson (5,616) — has topped 5,500. Hallock is aiming for a top-three finish.
Hallock plans to compete in the 100 hurdles and long jump at the Pac-12 championship the following weekend, May 13-14, in Eugene.
OSU sophomore Saskia McNairy, the Beavers’ other competitor in the heptathlon this weekend, is 10th on the Pac-12 season list at 4,708 points.
Hallock and McNairy are the Beavers' first entrants in the conference heptathlon championships since 1988.