Jess Lehman hoping to make most of final Gophers season
University of Minnesota director of women's track and field Matt Bingle won't be going to war anytime soon, but if he did, he knows who he would want with him.Without a doubt, it would be Jess Lehman.Formerly Jess Herauf, the Minnesota track and ...
University of Minnesota director of women’s track and field Matt Bingle won’t be going to war anytime soon, but if he did, he knows who he would want with him.
Without a doubt, it would be Jess Lehman.
Formerly Jess Herauf, the Minnesota track and field athlete and Dickinson native has earned the reputation of toughness with her coaching staff.
“If you’re going to war, you want her in your corner,” Bingle said. “You always want kids like that. You definitely want her on your side.”
The three-time all-American multi-event athlete is in her third year of being a team captain and has been a staple for the Gophers program, Bingle said.
“People feed off of her. She’s been a good leader,” Bingle said. “A lot of people look up to her because they know she’s going to work for everything that she’s gotten. (Her teammates) really look up to her, and she leads by example. She’s a total team player and takes care of every girl on the team. She wants to do the right thing and treat people the right way. She’s the ultimate teammate.
“I really don’t want her to leave. She’s been here for five years, but I could use another five at least.”
Nonetheless, Lehman will compete in her final Big Ten outdoor track and field championship starting on Friday in Lincoln, Neb.
“We are just so excited to go out together, and everybody is ready to have a great weekend,” Lehman said. “There’s so much positivity going into this weekend.”
Lehman, a five-time all-Big Ten selection and three-time national qualifier between the indoor and outdoor seasons, has won two indoor conference pentathlon championships - and was the first Gopher to do so since 2008.
“She’s just a great competitor. She’s able to focus on the task at hand,” Bingle said. “We always talk about doing your job. She’s been able to separate a lot of her feelings and emotions and focus on what’s going on in that moment. There’s a lot of talented people, but there’s not a lot of talented people who can separate that and keep your emotions in check. She’s just really great at that.
“And she’s tough, man. She’s super tough. She’s a workhorse. That’s something you don’t coach.”
What’s allowed her to be a successful college athlete, Lehman said, was time management skills. The elementary education major who is getting her master’s degree is a three-time academic all-Big Ten recipient and was a US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association all-academic and Capital One Academic all-district honoree in her career.
Though, with the help of her coaches and teammates, she had to learn pretty quickly how to survive even her freshman year.
In her first year of college as a redshirt, Lehman added to her repertoire of javelin and hurdles to become the multi-event athlete she is.
Though it wasn’t pretty at the beginning.
“A lot of us didn’t know the seven events, so we were learning from scratch,” Lehman said. “There were a lot of ugly practices freshman year. Looking back, I can’t even imagine how our coach dealt with that. If he was laughing, he was hiding it very well.”
Lehman’s said her relationships with her teammates - including training partners Alex Beckman, Amanda Beckman and Audra Winter - and coaches have also led her to her success.
In fact, Lehman became so close to Bingle that she began babysitting for him. Bingle became a friend with Lehman’s family, including with her parents Carol Herauf and TJ Herauf, through Lehman’s career.
So much so, Bingle’s daughter was a flower girl when Lehman married Jon Lehman, a former Gophers track and field thrower.
Bingle said Lehman has become like another daughter to him.
“There’s no one better than her. She’s just a great young woman who comes from a great family,” Bingle said. “She’s like family to me. She’s an exceptional person.
“She’s worked hard and is very motivated to get herself better, and that’s a tribute to her. She’s turned herself into a high-caliber athlete. That’s a tribute to her work ethic and commitment to getting better.”
Nonetheless, the 2011 Dickinson High graduate still moved more than 500 miles away from home for her college experience.
Lehman admitted the Twin Cities is a trek from home - she’s nearly memorized her stretch of Interstate 94 - but committing to Minnesota was a decision which has paid off.
“Just seeing how the girls interacted with each other and the family atmosphere that they stand for, it really attracted me,” Lehman said. “I just fell in love with it. It was a pretty easy decision. That family atmosphere is stronger than ever. It’s just a great school to be at.”
And Bingle has seen plenty of growth out of Lehman, including an uncanny work ethic.
That’s how she’s taken her events like javelin throw in high school from 140 feet, 6 inches in high school to 159-07 and her long jump from 17-11 to 19-10.
“She came in as a high school kid and now she’s a married woman,” Bingle said. “She’s really changed and matured over the years and got focused and committed. She’s just a driven young woman.”
Lehman always wants best for the team, Bingle said, which has made her an exceptional leader.
But she is still looking for big results for the last events of her career.
“I think we’re going to go out with a bang,” Lehman said.