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Herauf balances a healthy back, workouts

Jess Herauf is in a balancing act.

The University of Minnesota junior, and Dickinson High School graduate, is balancing pushing herself in workouts with her two stress fractures in her lumbar.

“That’s what we are dealing with right now, because I feel good and healthy,” said Herauf, who is a captain for the University of Minnesota women’s track and field team. “I just want to train and train, but I’m learning that less is sometimes more. My coaches have been drilling that in my head.”

However, Herauf stayed healthy throughout the indoor season closed out with an All-American honor after placing ninth in the pentathlon.

For the All-American effort, Herauf is one of the five athletes to be nominated for the Golden Goldy of Female Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. The Golden Goldys ceremony takes place Monday. The other four nominees are Rachael Bona, Kelli Budd, Jessika Mozia and Sari Noga.

“I feel honored, but it’s just a reflection of the coaches and teammates,” she said. “I don’t feel like it’s an individual award. They’ve done so much for me. I just want to thank them.”

During the NCAA indoor championships in Albuquerque, N.M., Herauf placed ninth in the pentathlon with a career-best 4,172 points. The ninth-place finish gave Herauf second-team All-American.

Herauf said she was taken aback during the indoor championships, because of the amount of quality competitors.

“Just being able to go to nationals was such an unbelievable experience, I was in awe half the time I was there,” Herauf said with a laugh. “I was just trying to take it all in. I was surrounded by all these amazing athletes and it was so much fun to be there and to watch some of these athletes and stand side by side. I was nerding out big time.”

The stress fractures to her back forced Herauf to sit out her sophomore season. Yet, she said the injury was a blessing in disguise, because it made her appreciate the chance to compete.

“This whole season has just been a blessing,” she said. “Everything has fallen into place very well. I feel good about this year.”

The Gophers’ Matt Bingle, the director of women’s track and field, has had to learn to cut off Herauf during her workouts.

“It’s still one of those things that we are still trying to balance, because her back is sensitive,” he said. “It’s one of those things we are still trying to figure out and maintain. She’s trying to manage it too.”

Bingle couldn’t be happier for Herauf to be nominated for a Golden Goldy.

“It’s something that she’s earned and she has changed drastically since her freshman year both on and off the track,” Bingle said. “She’s really got the concepts of how to be a great Division I athlete. We’re just touch on it now. There are still a lot of things to improve on. If she can stay healthy, there are a lot of good things that can happen for her.”

As for the end of her junior season, the ultimate goal is to reach the NCAA outdoor national championships which begin on June 11 in Eugene, Ore. However, her current goal is to stay healthy.

“That’s the final goal,” Herauf said about making the outdoor national championships. “I’m kind just looking short-term right now. I just want to stay healthy and keep working with the team. I want to have success practices every week and that will take me to wherever I’m supposed to go.”