Heptathletes measure their lives by a seemingly dizzying array of numbers. They think about tenths of seconds in the hurdles, centimeters in the high jump and meters in the javelin. All of it in pursuit of thousands of points in a scoring system unique to heptathlon—a combination of seven track and field events spanning disciplines of running, throwing and jumping.
Success requires a relentless commitment to those numbers, a passion not just for competing but mastering the smallest detail in hopes of unlocking incremental improvement. Those who choose to compete in “multis,” as events like heptathlon are casually known, are wired “a little differently,” as Vanderbilt assistant coach and multis coordinator Justin Byron explains it.
Within the small subset of track and field athletes willing to live that life, Beatrice Juskeviciute stands out. The graduate transfer, who won two Ivy League titles at Cornell, won the SEC heptathlon championship last month and is among the favorites for a national title. And she stands out even in moments when people looking to catch a few minutes of sleep or watch a movie wish she might consider standing down. On a bus ride this season, an exasperated coach, captive to Juskeviciute’s never-ending stream of technical questions and track and field thoughts, finally started loudly singing to drown out her queries.
“She wants to talk about track so much,” Byron chuckled, recalling the encounter. “She wants to know what everyone in the world is doing. She has all the rankings, all the numbers. She knows everyone else’s personal record. It’s like a computer, a little track and field computer.”
The Accidental Heptathlete
At least as far as heptathlon goes, the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships might have an entirely different look if Juskeviciute were a slightly more convincing liar.
As a girl, she didn’t aspire to compete in any form of track and field, let alone one of the most physically and mentally demanding events in all of sports. Growing up in Kaunas, she enjoyed volleyball—a good indoor fit for dreary, wet Baltic winters. Other than competing in an annual cross-country championship, she tried to keep her distance from competitive running.
“Track just seemed boring,” Juskeviciute said. “I didn’t want to go run laps around and around. I was like, ‘I can do this once, but I don’t want to practice it.’”
When she was about 14 years old, a coach asked her to think about joining the local youth track club. She demurred, saying she was going on vacation. The coach then asked for her phone number so they could chat about it when she returned. Juskeviciute gave a made-up number, but when the coach asked her to repeat it, she couldn’t remember the dummy digits. Stuck, she handed over the real number and soon joined the club. For the first year, she ran sprints and hurdles. Far from hating running around in circles, she enjoyed it—specifically, she enjoyed being very good at it.
From Kaunas to IMG Academy to Cornell and Vanderbilt: Tune in to Beatrice’s full story in the video above