An afternoon meet at the Wesley Brown Field House seemed an awful lot like practice to Katie Halbert.
Fortunately, Navy track and field practices are quite competitive, and it did not take long for Halbert to get into the right mindset.
The 14th annual Wesley Brown Invitational began at 4 p.m. last Friday, opening with the 60-meter hurdles as part of the pentathlon. Halbert got things off to a rousing start by winning the race in 8.66 seconds — a Navy record.
“It was after a long day of school and I kind of needed a long warmup to get my mind in the right place,” Halbert said. “I was able to start with my favorite event and it kind of set the tone.”
Halbert, senior captain of the women’s team, also set the school record in the long jump on the way to winning the pentathlon with 3,709 points. That total score tied the Navy record set by Annie Taylor last season.
“I have never been part of a program that someone set three school records in the span of about four hours. It was really fun to be part of something like that,” Navy director of track and field Jamie Cook said. “Katie has worked extremely hard, and I am very happy to see her have that type of success.”
Halbert placed third in the high jump then fifth in the shot put before winning the long jump in impressive fashion. She got a great takeoff and landed in the pit at a distance of 19 feet, 7 ½ inches. That was almost a foot better than her previous personal record.
“It was absolutely a shock when I found out how far I had jumped,” Halbert said. “I actually hit the board for possibly the first time and that was an important factor. I looked over at coach and he was so excited for me.”
Cook knew Halbert was capable of running a record time in the 60 hurdles but was admittedly surprised she also surpassed the long jump mark. Kirsten Andrews established both records (8.70 in 60 hurdles, 19-5 ½ in long jump) during the 2007 indoor season.
“When I saw Katie warming up for the long jump I was like, ‘Wow,’ because she looked really good,” Cook said. “Everybody was going bananas because they understood the significance of what she had done. Katie has been a tremendous leader and is so well respected by all her teammates.”
Halbert closed out the meet by placing third in the 800-meter run, earning 707 points to equal Taylor’s pentathlon record. Erin Higgins won the 800 in 2:27.98, setting a blistering pace that Halbert had to keep up with.
“The 800 is kind of a love-hate relationship for me. There’s always room to improve in that event,” Halbert said. “I wasn’t thinking about the time at all; I was more concerned with chasing down Erin Higgins.”
Navy is blessed with several talented multi-event performers, evidenced by the fact Higgins was runner-up in the pentathlon at the Wesley Brown Invitational with 3,691 points — a total that now ranks third in program history. Taylor, who took third with 3,520 points, was not upset to become a co-record holder with Halbert.
“If I’m going to share a record with someone, there is no one I would rather it be than Katie. “She’s not only my teammate; she’s my captain,” Taylor said. “It was truly a sight to see Katie out there absolutely killing it.”
Taylor, a sophomore, said there is tremendous camaraderie among the multi-event performers, and they are always rooting for each other. All three of Navy’s top pentathletes are threats to capture the Patriot League championship.
“We push each other all the time, and Katie definitely drives me to be a better competitor,” Taylor said. “I’m motivated and excited to try to put it all together like Katie did Friday night.”
Halbert was strictly a hurdler as a plebe at the academy, posting a season-best time of 9.82 in the 60 meters. Cook took over the program and thought the Keller, Texas, native had promise as a multi-event performer.
“It was a mutual decision. I thought it would be a great fit for Katie and her skill set,” said Cook, who was a three-time All-American in the decathlon at Penn State.
“I’m pretty good at pinpointing the characteristics needed to succeed as a multi-event athlete and Katie has them,” he said. “Katie is extremely eager, always willing to work hard and never backs down from a challenge. She’s constantly pushing to improve.”
Halbert placed third in the pentathlon at the Patriot League Indoor Championships as a sophomore, totaling 3,428 points. She did not get much of an introduction to the heptathlon before the 2020 outdoor season was canceled by coronavirus concerns.
Last spring was Halbert’s first as a heptathlete and she exceeded expectations by capturing the Patriot League outdoor championship. She was also a second team All-Patriot League performer in the 100-meter hurdles.
Halbert will compete in individual events during the Army-Navy meet indoors.
Halbert had yet to post a school record during her Navy career, so that made Friday’s performance even more special. She joins classmates Breanna Mealer, Lindsay Lewis and Alexa Arthun in that exclusive club.
“Clayton Thompson was a role model because he was always setting school records. I really wanted to put my name in Navy history,” Halbert said. “I was hungry for that goal and working for it. It’s nice to see it finally come to fruition.”
Halbert does not believe she has come close to her full potential in the pentathlon, noting she must improve in the high jump and shot put in particular.
“I think I have a lot more to give. I’d like to produce a score that comes from all five events,” she said.