Prairie Ridge senior Rylee Lydon proved she not only is versatile but also clutch.
Lydon, competing for TNT Track and Field Academy at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships in Sacramento, California, trailed by 62 points in the Women’s 17-18 Heptathlon with one remaining event, the 800 meters.
TNT coach Brandon Stryganek told Lydon she needed to hit 2:16 in the 800 to reach the necessary point total and pass 16 God Speed Track Club’s Yvette Harris for the victory.
Lydon went out and delivered, running 2:16.18, blowing past the other competitors in the second lap to win by more than 6 seconds and score 876 more points, bringing her total to 4,677 and making her a national champion Tuesday.
Harris (4,643) was second and Helena Novas Track Club’s Logan Todorovich (4,437) was third.
“The javelin didn’t go that well [the sixth event], and my coach told me what I needed,” Lydon said. “That was ingrained in my mind, 2:16, 2:16, 2:16. I know what pace to go out, I wanted to go out in 1:05 or 1:06 [in the first lap].”
A couple other runners went out slightly faster than that and Lydon went with them. She closed strong at the end to win going away and scored enough points for the gold medal.
“I needed to get as far away as possible because I needed to get as many points as possible to stay ahead of them,” Lydon said. “I really pulled away and tried to bring it home pumping my arms. That was incredibly exciting to see 2:16. I knew I really had to go and get as much distance as possible.”
Lydon entered the meet with the highest score (4,784) from the qualifying meets, although that was her first heptathlon competition. She won the Class 3A 400 state title in 2021 and followed with a 3A high jump state title this season.
Lydon also ran cross country as a freshman and was able to lean on some of her endurance experience to win the 800. She is being recruited by NCAA Division I schools for the heptathlon.
“I’m pretty new to it. But to have that good of competition and have that pressure at the end was really exciting,” she said. “It’s good experience going into college to have that competition at that high level. I met a lot of new girls and learned a lot from them because they’re experienced, they’ve done that event for years. To be a newbie and be in that experience was really fun. I was really happy I was able to do it.”
Lydon took first in the high jump (1.65 meters, 5-5) along with her first in the 800. She was second in the 200 (25.40), third in shot put (9.88 meters, 32-5) and fourth in the long jump (5.34 meters, 17-6 1/4). She finished 10th in the 100 high hurdles and 17th in the javelin, an event she just started this summer.
“They were pretty solid,” Lydon said of her seven events. “The hurdles and both the throws weren’t fantastic for this meet, but it was kind of survival of the fittest at that point. I stayed high enough to get the win at the end. That’s all that matters.”