Making NCAA Nationals My Home

    During my freshman year, Nick Morilla, the UCSD throws captain at the time and a boulder of a man, was a big part of why I made it to Nationals in the first place. He was there as I was stepping onto the runway at the CSULA Last Chance meet.

        I knew that throw was going to decide whether I was going to nationals with athletes that are now reached Olympic levels, or if I was going to miss out.
        I’ll never forget Nick saying, “Come on Pookie, go home, go home!”

    Yes he called me Pookie, but that call to go home is what really fired me up and gave me the focus to post a new school record on that throw despite only being a freshman.

    When Nick said “home,” he meant Texas, because Nationals that year were being held at Abilene Christian, just a few hours from my old high school in Little Elm, Texas. Just a few hours away from where I grew up.

        Getting on that plane was honestly like hopping into the back of your big sibling’s car with all their friends. You do not feel like you belong, yet you want to fit in so badly. That was me, the little sibling amongst giants. There were NCAA National Champions, Christine Merrill and Leah Blue, and many other All-Americans. I had only been doing this javelin thing for a few months but there I was, way out of my league.
       
    The first night we were there, and every first night, the NCAA hosted a banquet for all the athletes and coaches. Aside from the sometimes questionable food, like a one-table, Italian-style buffet for 500 people, they handed out Regional Athlete of the Year awards at this banquet. That year, Danielle Thu, now an assistant coach for the team, received “Field Athlete of the Year” for the West Region.
       
    As I watched her walk onto that stage, I knew that that was where I wanted to be.

        The rest of the meet was a blur, with Danielle winning the hammer throw and Linda Rainwater winning the heptathlon. I threw, but not well enough to make finals, and then we were home.
       
    That’s how fast it felt to me. There was not much more I could have done, but I swore then to work harder. No matter how much more talented or skilled others were, I would be better. I decided to just get in the weight room and lift. Picking up the heaviest things I could, always thinking about where I wanted to be. I wanted to stand on that national podium as champion, and I wanted Western Field Athlete of the Year from the NCAA, and more than anything, I wanted and want to go to London for the 2012 Olympic games.

    My hard work paid off, but limited me as I trained like a bodybuilder rather than a javelin thrower, making my muscles and upper body too tight to throw as well as I wanted to in the regular season. I threw an automatic qualifier, and came into Nationals ranked sixth.
        I came into that meet in North Carolina with a simple attitude, ‘I will win. I have decided.’
        I did not start out strong and barely made finals, but popped off a big throw in the fifth round to take the competition and become national champion.

    And then I was home, and it was over. That’s how fast it was.
        Junior year, I won the competition on my first throw. I have made Nationals my house.
        This year, I won the CCAA for the fourth consecutive time and got the award Thu got four years ago — Western NCAA Field Athlete of the Year.
        Now, I am looking for my third NCAA Championship title, and it will come.
        As for my final goal this year — London 2012 — it will come.

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