Southern Illinois hammer thrower DeAnna Price qualifies for Rio Olympics
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- DeAnna Price earned a spot on Team USA for the 2016 Olympics with a third place finish in the women's hammer throw Wednesday afternoon at Historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.
Price wasn't the only Saluki to earn a spot on the medal stand, as Gwen Berry, a 2011 SIU graduate, edged out Price for second-place in a highly contested final round that featured all three medalists outdistancing the previous U.S. Olympic Trials record of 235'-06" (71.80m).
Price and Berry will be the first Salukis to don the red, white and blue in Olympic competition since current USA track coach and SIU alumna Connie Price-Smith competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. SIU alumna Bianca Stuart competed in the long jump representing the Bahamas at the 2012 London Olympics, where she finished 18th.
"So excited that I'm able to represent for women, women who are bigger, women who are strong," Price said. "Being able to put that foot in that door and say, 'Hey, I can do this. You can too.'"
Price now owns the farthest all-conditions throw in collegiate history with her fifth round throw of 239'-09" (73.09m) and is the first collegian to have hit a throw over 73m.
"Sitting there I told myself I got this," Price said. "I hit the finish and I knew it was a good one. That slammed the door on finishing in the top three and when it came up 73 (meters) it was like oh my God I got it. I got the record. It was like a dream come true. It is definitely unrealistic and it hasn't sunk in yet but it will probably sink in tomorrow."
The Moscow Mills, Mo. native will have to wait to see what the ruling is on if her throw will be considered the official collegiate record, but for now she is just happy to have achieved what was a season long goal.
"I got the collegiate record which is great," Price said. "I've been dancing around that number all season and was finally able to get it. The record is amazing. I'm so excited to give back to a country that has given so much to us."
Hayward Field, fresh off hosting the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships that drew 43,419 spectators over the four-day event, has a reputation for attracting energetic and large crowds. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials were no different. And with both the men's and women's hammer throw competitions being contested on the infield of Hayward for the first time, it created a unique atmosphere that helped to push the competitors to new heights.
"When you sit there and you hear the crowd cheering your name, clapping for you, being able to sit there and soak it all in," Price said. "This is such a big event. When you go to different countries there's fans everywhere. Seeing the same turnout at Hayward Field, crazy, amazing."
Price got out to an early lead with a throw of 235'-01" (71.66m) in the opening round, a lead she would hold onto throughout the qualifying rounds.
After the field was trimmed down to nine competitors, eventual champ Amber Campbell took the lead in the fourth round with a toss of 236'-03" (72.02m). Berry one-upped Campbell in the fifth with a throw that measured 236'-04" (72.04m) to take her first lead of the afternoon. Price got all of her fifth throw of the day, setting a new personal-best with her aforementioned record-setting heave.
Campbell was not to be denied on her final attempt, as she threw the second-best mark by a U.S. athlete in 2016 and set a new personal-best with a toss of 242'-10" (74.03m). Berry followed by tying Price's mark, throwing 239'-09" (73.09m) to move into second by virtue of a better second mark. Price's sixth attempt was her fourth of 230 feet or further at 233'-08" (71.22m), but was not far enough to pass Campbell.
Price has had her share of success in the ring at Hayward Field, as she won both of her NCAA titles and took second at last year's USATF Outdoor Championships there.
"I love Eugene," Price said. "I always say Eugene is my home. Eugene is where I always throw the best and actually able to shine the brightest here. The weather is always great. Being able to throw on that field has been a great experience because you get all the fans."
SIU throws coach J.C. Lambert also competed Wednesday in the men's hammer throw, advancing to the final where he finished eighth. Lambert's best toss of the afternoon was on his second attempt, when he threw 226'-08" (69.10m).
The 2016 Olympics begin on August 5 and conclude on August 21.