Eye on the prize: Western Oregon's Amanda Schumaker a GNAC champ

Junior ranked third nationally in the javelin



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Western Oregon’s Amanda Schumaker, a two-time All-American in the javelin, won her first GNAC title Friday but has bigger goals in mind: like a national championship. She’s currently ranked third nationally.

MONMOUTH -- I will admit, I've never watched an entire javelin competition.

So I wasn't sure what to expect in Friday's women's contest at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships at Western Oregon University's McArthur Field.

For two hours I witnessed all the athletes complete their three throws in preliminaries, and then -- for those that qualified -- throw three more throws in the finals.

After the final throw, the event kind of just, well, ended.

No celebration. No fanfare. Just a quick, "That concludes the javelin finals," from the guy running the competition.

It was so low-key that as I stood there, trying to gauge the reactions from the athletes, I wasn't even sure who the winner was.

Until Amanda Schumaker finally spoke up.

"I won," the Western Oregon junior stated plainly of her first conference championship, when asked by a friend how she did.

According to Schumaker -- a two-time All-American who had already -- a couple weeks earlier -- shattered the school record and clinched an NCAA automatic-standard in the event to punch her ticket to the Division II national meet -- that's just the way the sport is.

"The whole thing about track is it's an individual sport. I mean, it's a team sport, too, but I'm usually focused on, `Am I going to PR?'" she said. "When I PR, that's when I'm happy."

The Gladstone High alum threw the javelin 154 feet, 1« inches Friday on her third throw in the prelims to win the event, edging Seattle Pacific's Brittany Aanstad -- who came in ranked as the GNAC's top performer.

But Schumaker didn't PR. Her top throw is 158-11, a mark she recorded at the Long Beach Invitational in April.

The thing is, her goal -- and what it's been all season -- is much bigger than a conference title.

"I'm going for a national title," she said. "I mean, (the GNAC title) is important, but my main goal is nationals, and really, a (throw) of 165 to get the Olympic provisional standard."

It's a goal that's not that far out of reach.

Currently, Schumaker's mark puts her third among Division II athletes -- just behind Fort Hays State's Makayla McPhail (159-4) and, ironically enough, Aanstad (161-11).

"It's a very competitive conference, and Brittany and I have been going back and forth the past three years," Schumaker said. "It's kind of weird -- people are like, `Oh, so you're ranked third in the nation so you'll probably win the GNAC?' And I'm like, `Actually, it's harder than you think.'"

Friday, she managed to top Aanstad, but she knows it's a whole different ballgame at the national meet, which will be held May 24-26 at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl in Pueblo, Colo.

Photo by Pete Strong

WOU’s Ashley Potter broke the school record and achieved an NCAA auto-standard in her GNAC triple jump title-win Saturday at McArthur Field.

Joining her will be triple jumper and the lone other WOU female conference champ, Ashley Potter, who added one more honor to her resume with an NCAA auto-qualifying jump (40 feet, 9 inches) in Saturday's finals.

Potter, who came into the meet as the No. 2 seed, broke GNAC meet and conference records, jumped 7« inches further than her career-best, and earned her second title in the event.

"It's a lot of pressure," Schumaker said of nationals, where she finished eighth a year ago and sixth as a freshman.

The trick to a good throw, she said, comes down to the mental aspect.

"It's honestly just clearing your mind out of everything and doing what your body knows how to do," Schumaker said. "I mean, the reason to train all year is to get my muscle memory with my entire body -- your feet know where to run -- I don't even count my steps, I just go.

"It's just clearing your mind."

With her modest reaction to her first-ever conference title, I'd say her mind is just where it needs to be.

Nicole Watkins is the sports editor at the Itemizer-Observer. She can be reached at nwatkins@polkio.com or 503-623-2373.



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