DES MOINES, Iowa — San Diego State senior Whitney Ashley won the national title in the discus throw on the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
She became the fourth national champion in program history (the first since 1985), including La Tanya Sheffield (400 hurdles), Laura DeSnoo (discus throw) and Ramona Pagel (shot put).
Ashley, who is studying media studies at SDSU, defeated 23 other entrants in the discus with a toss of 196 feet, 10 inches (59.99 meters). The mark, which came on her fifth of six throws, was a school record, a Mountain West record and a U.S. Olympic Trials “B” standard mark.
The automatic standard is 60.00 meters, meaning she missed the “A” standard by one centimeter. The mark of 59.99 meters, however, almost guarantees her a spot in the trials, which will be held later this month in Eugene, Ore.
“It was unbelievable,” Ashley said. “Once I made finals (after three throws), I just went for it. I was nervous, but I calmed myself down and just let it go. When the throw finally registered (on the scoreboard), I was ecstatic. I cried almost immediately. I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve never really believed that dreams come true until today.”
Ashley, who finished seventh at the NCAA Championships last year with a mark of 179-07, set a personal record on her first throw of 184-05, which ranked second at the time.
She was fourth after four rounds, as she followed with throws of 183-11, 169-01 and 175-00. On her fifth attempt, Ashley exploded past Arizona State’s Anna Jelmini (192-10) with her record-setting throw of 196-10. For good measure, she finished with a toss of 185-01.
She bettered her previous personal mark of 183-01 an impressive four times on the day.
“We are extremely proud of Whitney,” said head coach Shelia Burrell. “It was an amazing competition to watch. She’s worked so hard this year with (assistant coach) Dorian (Scott) and it all paid off today. She was focused, determined and stayed cool under pressure. It’s our first national championship since 1985 and a great accomplishment for San Diego State athletics.
"Since I’ve been here, we’ve been trying to take this program to the next level and build an Aztec legacy. Today was a big step in the right direction.”
More competition for Ashley
Ashley’s not done for the week as she is slated to compete in the shot put at 5 p.m. CST Friday, where she is ranked sixth.
Kelsy Hintz, meanwhile, just missed scoring for the Aztecs as she finished ninth in the pole vault by clearing 13-07.25 (4.15m). Seven others tied Hintz with the mark, but Hintz got the ninth place alone because she had less misses earlier on. Hintz cleared each of her first three heights of 12-09.50 (3.90m), 13-03.50 (4.05m) and 13-07.25 (4.15m), before failing to clear 13-09.25 (4.20m) on all three of her attempts. She came into the weekend with a PR of 13-10.00.
After three of 21 events scored, SDSU sits alone in fourth place with 10 points, trailing Stanford (18.00), Oklahoma (14.00) and Penn State (11.00). Last year, San Diego State totaled two points, which tied for 60th out of the 131 competing teams.
“We came into this meet with some serious scoring opportunities,” Burrell said. “We just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Hopefully this great start by Whitney and Kelsy (Hintz) will motivate Shanieka (Thomas), Allison (Reaser) and Alex (Evans). If we stay focused, anything can happen.”
More competition for Aztecs - all times CST
Next up for the Aztecs is Allison Reaser, who begins her two-day heptathlon tomorrow at 1 p.m. with the 100-meter hurdles. She’ll follow with the high jump (2 p.m.), shot put (4:30 p.m.) and 200 meters (6 p.m.) on Thursday and the long jump (3 p.m.), javelin (4:15 p.m.) and 800 (6:45 p.m.) on Friday.
Her 5,653 points, which won the MW Championships, rank her 11th of the 24 scheduled competitors. Last year, Reaser was 18th in the event with 5,165 points. She went onto win the heptathlon at the U.S. Junior Track & Field Championships (5,359) and take fourth at the Pan American Junior Championships (5,162).
Follow live results for the four-day meet.