LA CROSSE, Wis. -- A record-setting performance under sunny, windy conditions proved a winning formula for Hamline senior Becky Culp.

On Thursday, she became the first individual champion of the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships, winning the discus competition with a top throw of 154-7 yards (47.11 meters).

Hosted by Wisconsin-La Crosse at Roger Harring Stadium, in the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex, the three-day competition runs through Saturday.

Culp, ranked third in DIII women’s discus, now likely moves to the top of that chart. A first-time national champion, she also avenged frustration from last year’s NCAA outdoor meet, where she finished third.

“Last year I was first going into the finals and I lost it in the last two throws,” Culp said. “But it was awesome to hold on to it and actually be a national champion. I never thought it would happen and I’m really happy it did.”

Culp becomes the fourth Hamline women’s track and field athlete to win a national title. She leaves as a five-time national championship participant and a four-time All-American. Three of those All-American honors are in discus. One is in the shot put.

Teammate Shawny Kramer, a sophomore from Staples, Minn., finished 10th in Thursday’s discus preliminaries, barely missing the cutoff for the finals (the top nine throwers advance).

Culp’s top throw — her last in her preliminary round and the third of her six competition throws — also bested her school-record distance of 153-10 yards, which she’d set April 24 at the Hamline University Twilight Meet.

Thursday’s exploits came against a steady northeast breeze that blew against all right-handed discus throwers, a group that included Culp.

“Which is funny because two of my PRs at nationals have been in left-handed winds,” Culp said. “But you’ve just got to drive the discus down and keep it down. So that’s what I did.” 

Throwing a discus is far more precise than appearances. Footwork, body control and strength all are crucial components. Culp says she and Kramer, who train together, throw 30-50 times in a typical practice, plus execute “dry circles,” or, the throwing motion and footwork without the discus.

“It’s a very challenging event and I sort of picked it up in seventh grade and I fell in love with it instantly,” Culp said. “I’ve done a lot of dry-circle drills where I’m just going through the form. Even walking around outside of practice, I’ll all of a sudden start practicing, doing the footwork because you can always move better through the circle.”

In the weight room, discus throwers favor clean lifting mixed with squats.

“Also, a lot of people are shocked to hear this, but short sprints [are a big part of our workout] because you have to be explosive in a short amount of time,” Culp said. “And also box jumps and other lifts.”

Culp next competes in Saturday’s shot put, while Kramer is in Friday’s hammer throw. Culp is ranked third nationally in shot, Kramer 11th in hammer. Culp says she’ll miss her sophomore training partner after this weekend’s national championship meet.

“We work really well together,” Culp said. “It’s nice because she has her really good event, hammer, and I’m in the shot and discus. It’s really great because we lift well together. We push each other in the weight room and we talk sometimes.”