Reno Tuufuli sat ninth at the NCAA Championships with one heave of the discus left in his junior season at the University of Iowa.
Courtesy Hawkeye Athletics, click here! Feature photo: William Dougherty-WoodburyCent-Iowa © Darren Miller/hawkeyesports.com
“He said, ‘If I stay in ninth, I don’t walk away with any (All-American) hardware (awarded to the top eight placewinners),” Iowa throws coach Eric Werskey said.
So, Tuufuli literally took matters into his own hands. The native of Las Vegas gripped a discus that had been on the receiving end of more than 45 minutes of steady Oregon rainfall and threw it 189 feet. The mark thrust him from ninth to fifth on the leaderboard and Tuufuli earned his second consecutive first-team All-America accolade in the event.
“That is the best part of my day, having my best throw be my last throw,” said Tuufuli, who threw 196-feet, 2-inches last year on a much drier Hayward Field. “I lined my final throw up pretty well; I took a deep breath and made sure all the energy I was putting into the throw was going into the right aspects.”
Tuufuli opened with a toss of 178-3 and followed that with a mark of 183-2. He fouled on his final throw of the second flight and again on the first attempt of finals.
“It all started with my fourth throw, which I smacked, and I think I threw over the 60 (meter) line, but I fouled it,” Tuufuli said. “I tried to do it again on my fifth throw (181-4), I just got a little too excited.”
Tuufuli was the final competitor for the Hawkeye men’s track and field team for the 2018 season. In the process, he added four team points to the five that teammate Mar’yea Harris received moments earlier with a fourth-place effort in the 400 meter dash. Iowa finished tied for 31st in the final standings.
“It shows he is a competitor,” Werskey said of Tuufuli’s final throw. “Reno is a team guy and he knows what is on the line.”
Tuufuli has such high expectations, that a second straight fifth-place finish in the discus didn’t sit particularly well.
“It means I didn’t have as good of a meet this year as I did last year,” Tuufuli said. “If I threw what I did last year, I would have been second.”
Luke Vaughn, a senior from Memphis, won the discus with a mark of 198-2. Five of the top eight finishers are from the Big Ten Conference.
The result in the discus comes two days after Tuufuli placed 23rd in the shot put.
“I had to come to the discus with higher expectations,” he said.
Five of the eight first-team discus All-Americans return next season when the NCAA Championship are held at Mike A. Myers Track in Austin, Texas. That is the venue where Tuufuli threw a career-best 203-7 in 2017.
“I think it will be fruitful senior season for him,” Werskey said. “He has a good mojo (in Austin). He has to clean up a few things technically, stay healthy, and have his mind on the prize of being a national champion.”
Tuufuli’s mind is already there.
“The goal is to win everything and be able to say I put my best effort into every competition,” he said. “I am trying to mature as a thrower, an athlete, and a person.”The University of Iowa women’s track and field team reached its highest finish in program history with a 13th place finish on the final day of the 2018 NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Iowa tallied 19 points, the most points in program history, with the help of senior Jahisha Thomas and sophomore Laulauga Tausaga earning first team All-America honors for the second time this week.
The Hawkeyes previous best finish was 20th place in 2006 and 1985.
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THOMAS GOES OUT ON TOP
Two days after Thomas finished third in the long jump, she returned to place sixth in the triple jump despite battling through rain and hail.
“That was definitely one for the books,” Thomas said. “That rain was something serious, but we all competed in the same conditions. My first jump was a bad jump, but I knew I had something there and then I had a solid jump on my second attempt and that turned out to be my best one. I felt the potential in my body.”
Thomas is Iowa’s only first team All-American in the triple jump.
It’s not the end for Thomas, she will get to wear the Iowa uniform one last time in three weeks.
“I still have the British trials in about three weeks so I get to wear the uniform one last time,” she said.
TAUSAGA PLACES 4TH IN THE DISCUS
After a surprise fourth place finish in the shot put on Thursday, Tausaga provided a repeat performance in the discus. She recorded a best mark of 183-11 to become a first team All-American in the event for the second consecutive year.
“I came into the discus and I proved that I can throw with the best girls in the country again, but there is a lot of work to be done but I am happy where I am standing,” Tausaga said.
Tausaga only had two legal throws, but made them count even as the weather seemed to shift every 15 minutes.
“It has more of a mental factor,” Tausaga said. “Personally, when I see rain I start to panic, but I held through and I got to sixth and then bumped up to fourth. I got lucky with being able to finish fourth.”
A group of Hawkeyes will head to Des Moines, Iowa, for the USATF Championships June 21-24.