Heidi Heiniger completes athletic career at Marshall University
Seth Burdick | Contributor
Growing up, many kids have a dream of going to an NCAA Division I school to play their favorite sport. The majority of those dreams do not pan out. Only a couple years ago, one of those dreams came true when former Sabetha track and field standout Heidi Heiniger accepted an offer to throw javelin at Marshall University in West Virginia.
Heiniger recalls making the initial decision to throw the javelin in high school.
“I actually waited a week after track season started my freshman year before I approached Mr. Remmers to see if I could try it,” Heiniger said. “Once I started practicing javelin, I knew it was an event that I wanted to pursue. It is really a crossover event between throwing and running, which was appealing to me since I hadn’t ever thrown before.”
Heiniger made state appearances all four years of her high school career in javelin — finishing fourth in 2015, sixth in 2014, fifth in 2013 and third in 2012. Her throw at the state meet in 2015 was 124 feet, 11 inches.
SHS Track and Field Coach Dave Remmers knew that Heiniger was capable of competing with the best.
“She always competed as hard as she could,” Remmers said. “She always tried to be perfect, and there would be days where it wasn’t possible to be perfect. So the next day she would come out and she tried that much harder to get better.”
Choosing Marshall was an easy choice for Heiniger. Not only did it give her the ability to continue her passion, but it also meant attending a quality school for less money.
“I was recruited by Marshall with a scholarship to throw javelin,” Heiniger said. “The opportunity to get a degree, save money, and still compete in a sport I loved was a big contributor in my decision to attend Marshall.”
Before her first competition in college, Heiniger admitted that she was nervous due to the fact that she would be competing against some of the best in the nation. After that first meet, her confidence in herself grew, because she was able to compete with the best.
After her first year at Marshall, Heiniger had made a name for herself as one of the best in the conference after placing second at the Conference USA Championship.
During her sophomore year, she qualified to throw in the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Meet.
During Heiniger’s time at Marshall, she consistently placed in the top 10 at all of her meets. Her top throw came during her sophomore year when she threw the javelin 45.12 meters — or about 148 feet — at the UNF Spring Break Invitational, which earned her first place. However, that was not the first time Heiniger was crowned the champion of a meet.
During her freshman year, Heiniger earned first at the Catamount Classic with a throw of 41.63 meters. She would go on to win her sophomore year as well after throwing for 43.32 meters. Heiniger also tallied victories at the Florida Relays her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons — throwing 41.63 meters, 41.73 meters and 43.33 meters, respectively. During her senior year, she claimed gold at the Don McGarey Track and Field Invitational.
Heiniger said she “accomplished everything she could have hoped to achieve,” and according to her coach showed she was one of the best at Marshall.
From practice to the event, her former head coach loved Heiniger’s work ethic.
“Heidi was so awesome to have in our program,” said Marshall Head Track and Field Coach Jeff Small. “The lasting impact she had on our program was knowing from day one that Heidi was going to place very high all four years in the javelin at our Conference Championships. We always knew she was going to be an outstanding representative of our program both on and off the track. The best thing she did day in and day out was to come to practice and give 110 percent effort in all phases of her work out every day.”
Small’s praise did not just stop with Heidi. He also showed his gratitude toward her parents for their support of the program.
“Her parents were MVPs for us as well,” Small said. “It didn’t matter if our meet was in California or Florida, we knew that they would be up in the stands cheering their daughter on.”
From her freshman year of high school to her senior year at Marshall, Heiniger fell in love with javelin and the challenges it brings.
“I feel that it is quite unique because of how technical it is. You can’t just muscle it out there,” she said. “There are so many elements that have to come together for the throw to go far. Just having one thing slightly wrong can drastically change the distance of the throw. Javelin at times can be frustrating because of the precision that it takes, but it is rewarding at the same time, because when you do have a great throw it feels effortless and exhilarating.”
Heiniger describes the town of Huntington, West Virginia, to be exactly how it is portrayed in the movie, “We Are Marshall.”
“The whole town shows up for game day and really cares about the success of the students,” Heiniger said. “Being a part of that atmosphere was pretty cool and made me proud to be a student athlete there.”
Now that Heiniger has finished off her career at Marshall, she looks forward to life outside of the university. Heiniger finished her degree in May 2019 with a bachelor of science degree in biology, and a minor in chemistry. Recently, she accepted a job to become a science teacher in Wetmore and will be teaching seventh through 12th grade science.
“Many of the classes were hands on, which allowed me to participate in dissections, field trips and labs,” Heiniger said. “This broadened my learning experience. I enjoy biology, because it can be applied to almost any aspect of daily life.”
As Heiniger continues her path, she leaves a trail that was marked by success and perseverance. All throughout her days as a Bluejay to a member of the Thundering Herd, Heiniger has shown what it means to work hard and excel in school and on the field. Even though her collegiate career is over, Heiniger looks to enjoy what else the world has to offer.
Heiniger is the daughter of Cory and Sheila Heiniger. She graduated from Sabetha High School in 2015.