Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
EUGENE, Ore. — At least one of the 24 best discus throwers in the country won’t have a worry in the world Friday when the men’s competition is contested at the NCAA Championships.
Anything University of Iowa senior Avery Meyers does with his three throws in the first flight will be a bonus in what has blossomed into an impressive career. Four years ago, the fact the walk-on from West Liberty, Iowa, traveled with the team to any meet, let alone the most significant competition on the collegiate calendar, would be news worthy.
Meyers used a progression of simple goals to stay motivated and on course at Iowa. First, he had to improve during his redshirt season in 2012-13. Then, he had to make the lineup for road trips. Five years later, he has arrived at Hayward Field for track and field’s biggest event.
And he isn’t intimidated.
“There is no pressure on me,” Meyers said. “I’m a first-time qualifier who had to PR to get here. I’m going for the big throw right away in round one. There is no reason to save myself for rounds four or five, because it might not happen.”
Meyers is seeded 16th, thanks to a career-best effort of 56.61 meters (185-feet, 9-inches) on his third and final throw at the NCAA West Preliminary in Austin, Texas, on May 27. He finished seventh in the competition that was won by sophomore teammate Reno Tuufuli (62.06, 203-7), who is making his second trip to Eugene.
The two Hawkeyes compete Friday at 7:05 p.m. (CT); Meyers is the third thrower in the first flight, Tuufuli throws fourth in flight two.
It will be the end of an interesting, long-shot athletic journey for Meyers.
“The goal is always to see your seniors end their career on the national stage, especially a guy like Avery on his last opportunity,” Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody said. “It’s a great thing for him and our program to show that we know how to develop athletes. That says a lot for our program and for him to set his sights on being here five years and staying focused and dedicated the entire time.”
Meyers grew up 20 minutes from Cretzmeyer Track, but he nearly attended Iowa State, even though then Hawkeye assistant coach Scott Cappos contacted him at least once a week during the recruiting process. As a student-athlete at West Liberty High School, Meyers knew if he had any future in college athletics it would be as a thrower, but his first love was baseball.
Going into his senior year of high school, Meyers was set on becoming a Cyclone and deciding on a career path in agriculture or engineering. But Cappos persisted and persuaded Meyers to attend an unofficial campus visit that spring.
This is what I have worked for since the day I stepped on campus, to make it as high as I could go. I came in here and Gabe Hull was throwing a school-record 63 meters (in the discus) and I was throwing 48. I realize there are guys out there who are more talented, it is fine. I will do the best I can do, worry about myself, and stay in my own lane. — Avery Meyers
“On our way home my dad asked what I thought,” Meyers recalled. “I said, ‘I think we have some paper work to do.’ I want to be part of this (University of Iowa program).”
Meyers won a Class 2A state title as a junior in high school in the discus (178-feet, 5-inches); he won the shot put (58-2 ¾) as a senior.
When Meyers joined the Hawkeyes, he became part of a throws corps that included Gabe Hull, Andy Carman, Sam Joens, and Matt Byers. He worked for everything and stayed optimistic.
As a fifth-year senior, Meyers won the discus at the Florida Relays (55.65), placed second to Tuufuli at the Musco Twilight (53.20), was third at the Drake Relays (54.97), and eighth at the Big Ten Championships (54.43). Regardless of what happens in Eugene, Meyers will at least finish his career seventh on Iowa’s all-time list in the discus and shot put (60-feet, 4-inches).
“This is what I have worked for since the day I stepped on campus, to make it as high as I could go,” Meyers said. “I came in here and Gabe Hull was throwing a school-record 63 meters (in the discus) and I was throwing 48. I realize there are guys out there who are more talented, it is fine. I will do the best I can do, worry about myself, and stay in my own lane.”
Meyers graduated from Iowa in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. When he returns home from Eugene, he will begin working on the family’s 1,800-acre farm south of West Liberty, raising cattle and sheep and growing corn, hay, and soybeans.
In the meantime, Meyers will enjoy his first-ever trip to the state of Oregon. On Sunday after the team arrived in Eugene, the throwers drove to Hayward Field. It was a perfect time for Meyers to reflect on the past five years.
“(Hayward Field) was empty and the sun was going down,” he said. “I have seen so many videos, watched so many races on TV, and I have heard about the storied history of Oregon track and field. I stood there a minute because I realized that I didn’t just come to watch, I am part of the show, the attraction.”
It’s an ending most walk-ons only dream about.