Jana Hieber never competed in the long jump or shot put during her interscholastic track and field at Goffstown High School. She ran one 800-meter race that she can recall, though that was as a freshman with the Grizzlies.
But Hieber is a fast learner, as well as a fast hurdler, so she didn't take long to establish herself as one of the best all-around track and field athletes in Tufts University history.
During the Tufts Stampede multi-team meet last month, Hieber broke her own school pentathlon record in winning four of five events, including the long jump and shot put. Her total of 3,622 points easily surpassed her 2013 mark of 3,401 and ranked as the best pentathlon score in NCAA Division III competition this season.
It also helped her earn Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center Athlete of the Month honors for January in voting by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
"My goal in the pentathlon this year wasn't to top my own record," Hieber, a Tufts senior, said earlier this week. "It's just that over the last two years I've trained hard. I came out hoping to compete at my best and expecting to get a higher score."
While that score has since been surpassed by Amelia Campbell of Carleton College in Minnesota, it still ranks fifth all-time in Division III.
Hieber started the Tufts Stampede pentathlon by winning the 60-meter hurdles in 9.18 seconds, the second-fastest time in the event in Tufts history, for 873 points. In the high jump, she cleared 5 feet, 3 inches to win and score 736 points.
She also finished first in the shot, with a heave of 32 feet, 11 3/4 inches for 533 points. Her final first-place finish was in the long jump, with a leap of 17 feet, 9 inches — the best distance by a Jumbo since 1992 — for 674 points.
Though she didn't win the 800-meter run, she recorded her second-best point total ever in the event, 806, by finishing with a time of 2 minutes 21.26 seconds.
Hieber credits head coach Kristen Morwick, a record-setting high-jumper in her undergraduate days at Dartmouth College, and the rest of the Tufts coaching staff for bringing out the best in her.
"Coach Morwick has absolutely been an incredible coach for me," Hieber said. "She's so knowledgeable and wants her athletes to succeed, not only in their events but in the classroom, as well."
Hieber began the month by finishing third overall, second among collegians, with a long jump of 17-9 1/2 at the Dartmouth Relays. She followed that up with a second-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles at the Tufts Invitational, with a time of 9.27 seconds.
She also competed in both of those events Jan. 25 at the Bowdoin Invitational, winning the long jump (18-1 3/4) and placing second in the 60-meter hurdles (9.35).
In winning Athlete of the Month honors, Hieber edged out two other accomplished college athletes, swimmers Eva Fabian of Keene and Yale University (26 points), and Drew Ledwith of Keene and Keene State College (24).
Fabian, the 2013 Union Leader Red Rolfe Female Athlete of the Year, won six of her seven January races and placed third in the other.
Ledwith followed up a victory in the 45th anual International Swimming Hall of Fame Rough Water Race at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by sweeping six races in two dual meets.
Other nominees included Londonderry High School boys' hockey player Eric Coburn, Merrimack High boys' basketball player Eric Gendron, U.S.A. Soccer Women's Under-19 CONCACAF Cup team member Rachel Hill of Somersworth, University of New Hampshire women's basketball player Kelsey Hogan of Nashua, Londonderry High girls' basketball player Aliza Simpson and Southern New Hampshire University men's basketball player Mike Stys of Hooksett.
To submit a nomination, email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Athlete of the Month" in the subject line by the fifth of the month after the achievements for which the athlete is being nominated.