NDSU’s Lillejord earns top awardFAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — On the brink of the best national-meet finish in North Dakota State’s Division I track & field history, and just 1,000 meters standing between himself and another record-breaking heptathlon point total he didn’t expect to be attainable, Andy Lillejord remained Andy Lillejord.
By: Wes Offerman, For The Sun, The Jamestown Sun
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — On the brink of the best national-meet finish in North Dakota State’s Division I track & field history, and just 1,000 meters standing between himself and another record-breaking heptathlon point total he didn’t expect to be attainable, Andy Lillejord remained Andy Lillejord.
Just as he showed through the first six events at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Lillejord was calm, composed and seemingly unflappable.
“I was just thinking about what I had to do,” Lillejord said of the moments before the 1,000-meter run that would cap the heptathlon. “I knew who I had to beat and what type of time I would need to run. I just wanted to stay relaxed, stay within myself, and make sure I didn’t run out of gas.”
The former Jamestown High School state champion posted the fastest 1,000 time of his life and secured a seventh-place finish in the heptathlon at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday. Lillejord racked up 5,793 points over the two-day event, destroying his school record that stood for just 12 days by 132 points.
Lillejord becomes NDSU’s second Division I All-American in men’s track & field, joining Matt Bishoff who placed 11th in the NCAA heptathlon in 2009.
“I was so impressed with his composure,” said NDSU associate head coach and director of the team’s multi-events, Stevie Keller. “Being on the big stage and in the national meet for the first time — that can sometimes be tough for kids. Andy just kind of does his thing and competes.”
Two weeks earlier, Lillejord’s highest heptathlon score was 5,517 points. After defending his Summit League title with 5,661 points on Feb. 24-25, his performance at nationals went beyond his own expectations.
“I didn’t think I was going to score quite this high this year,” he said. “Everything has certainly come together very well, and I’m extremely happy with that score right now.”
Lillejord entered the second day of competition in 10th place — identical to the ranking he held entering the meet — but he was able to climb three spots over the final three events on Saturday. He ran 8.40 seconds in the 60 hurdles, the second-fastest time of his career, cleared 16-08.75 in the pole vault, and clocked in at 2:44.93 in the 1000.
He ran at the back of the pack for the first three laps of the 1000, but a strong finishing kick propelled him to third place in his heat and a personal-best by more than three seconds.
“He’s definitely set the bar high at NDSU,” said Keller of the former Blue Jay. “We’ve had some great multi-event athletes over the years, but for him to be at the top of that group is very impressive.”
Lillejord was quick to praise Keller, who has now turned out four Bison multi-event All-Americans since 2009 in Bishoff, Heather Zander, Whitney Carlson and Lillejord.
“Stevie is a great coach,” said Lillejord. “I give all the credit to him. He knows how to prepare you to do your best, and that is what great coaches do.”
After the dust had settled following one of the top track & field performances in NDSU history, Lillejord was already looking ahead.
“I’m very pleased with my performance,” he said. “Hopefully I can do it again next year.”
Wes Offerman is a member of the NDSU athletic media relations department