CSU has found its place nationally in track and field and it’s on the field.
The Rams went to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., with senior thrower Drew Loftin representing the men’s team and throwers Loree Smith and Hannah Metzler and miler Katie Yemm representing the women.
It was Loftin, one of two CSU All-Americans, who stole the show in the finals of the men’s weight throw on March 15, coming from an eighth place finish in the preliminaries to finish second overall.
“I thought Drew was amazing,” said head coach Del Hessel. “He had great poise, drive and composure. It was fun to watch.”
With his back against the wall, Loftin tossed a personal-best 71 feet, 1 1/2 inches to finish one inch behind national champion Thomas Freeman of Manhattan, who threw 71-2 1/2.
“It was a great time to have a personal-best throw,” said throwers coach Brian Bedard. “The goal was to have him throw 70 feet, we felt he could achieve that.”
Loftin exceeded that goal with a throw that Bedard called “the most technically sound throw he could possibly execute.”
The other All-American for CSU was junior Loree Smith, who finished ninth in the shot put recording a mark of 53-2 1/4, and eighth in the weight throw at 63-7.
Though his best thrower did not perform as well as she would have liked, Bedard said Smith still put on a strong performance in an unknown and awkward environment.
“The crowd in the women’s competition would cheer when a name was announced and then go dead calm,” Bedard said. “Loree has never competed in a situation like that. Still she said it didn’t bother her and didn’t use it as an excuse. But I was tense so I can’t imagine how she felt out there.”
Bedard added that even in that pressure situation and with her timing off, Smith managed to perform at a level deserving of All-American honors – something the junior can build on for the future.
“She didn’t perform at her best and was still talented enough to be an All-American,” Bedard said. “That should keep her motivated.”
With Smith and Metzler – who finished 14th with a toss of 50-8 1/4 – both representing CSU in the women’s shot put, the Rams managed to accomplish something very few universities do.
“It’s remarkable to have two people from the same school competing in the same event,” Hessel said. “Not many schools have that kind of talent.”
Metzler’s appearance would not have occurred had it not been for Bedard’s faith in the senior. By allowing Metzler to compete in the women’s shot put at the Last Chance Meet in Spokane, Wash., on March 8, Hessel and Bedard gave the senior one last chance to qualify for nationals … and she did.
“The coaches knew I could qualify,” Metzler said. “Coach Bedard had faith in me and I managed to slip in as the 16th thrower.”
Metzler added that the championship experience was enhanced by the presence of her teammate competing in the same event.
For Yemm, it was not a repeat of last season, when, as a sophomore, she finished seventh to garner All-American honors in the women’s mile. This time around Yemm ran a strong 4 minutes, 47.79 in the preliminaries, but finished 16th and failed to qualify for the final.
With the indoor season now complete, the Rams turn their attention to the outdoor season and the chance to do it all over again.