For University of Utah track and field head coach Kyle Kepler, having somebody like senior Madison Lanford on the team is beneficial not only because of her experience, but her leadership. To Kepler, she is like another coach on the team. Her talent for not holding back what needs to be said and making sure the team is warming up correctly are the things that stand out to Kepler.
“Some kids aren’t comfortable doing that and for her, it’s a natural quality to not be afraid to speak up and make sure people are doing things the right way,” Kepler said. “There’s not going to be a coach there every second of every kid doing every drill so you got some senior leaders who aren’t afraid to speak up. If they see something not being done the right way, you know they will make sure that changes and things are being done the way they are expected to be done.”
Lanford believes it is both her personality and mood that give her the motivation she needs to help her teammates out when they need it.
“I have a strong personality, and the majority [of the time I’m in] a good mood,” Lanford said. “I think that when I go to practice and even competition and stuff, I think that I’m in a good mood and it really brings the team up and makes it so everyone else is in a good mindset and happy for practice.”
Aside from her ability to step up and lead, Lanford’s background and knowledge of the sport is a plus for the team. The Washington native came to Utah with interest in competing in heptathlons. This is an event that contains seven parts — 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, javelin, long jump and 800-meter run.
“I did the short hurdles and I had done long jump once in high school, so I was interested in trying it here, but nobody else here had done it my freshman year so I was just kind training by myself,” Lanford said. “Last year I started really training and getting into it, and I just thought that it would be fun [to be] strong in a lot of the events rather than just one so I thought that would be good for me.”
During her time competing in heptathlons, Lanford placed second at the Aztec Invitational during the 2016 outdoor season and she went on to finish in 12th place at the Pac-12 Championships that same year. She ranks 10th overall in Utes who have competed in the heptathlon.
For the past two seasons, she has competed in that event, but she has changed her focus to the 400-meter hurdles. However, her experience with heptathlons is something Kepler believes gives her a way to connect with her teammates, no matter what event they are competing in.
“The fact that she understands all the different events is one of those things that’s unique to the combined events kids because they understand what’s going through each kids mind as they are getting ready for their event,” Kepler said. “Whether it’s the throws or a hurdle race or a sprint race or whatever, they do all those things as a combined event kid so I think they have a unique understanding of all the events than someone who is a pure sprinter or a pure distance runner maybe don’t have.”