By DARREN MILLER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Laulauga Tausaga knew big throws were coming. So did Eric Werskey, her coach at the University of Iowa.
“If she is feeling good and gives me the nod, we know we’re ready to roll,” Werskey said Friday at Hornet Stadium. “That’s what happened the past couple days (at practice).”
A self-proclaimed quick-starter, Tausaga opened the third flight of women’s discus at the NCAA West Preliminary with a toss of 202-feet, 11-inches (61.86 meters). No one knew at the time, but that effort would have won the competition. Still, Tausaga was taking nothing for chance. After a sector foul on a monster second attempt, she reset her school record to 205-8 (62.69) on throw No. 3.
“I had a phenomenal day of practice (Thursday),” Tausauga said. “I was kind of shaking the rust off because the last two weeks I was struggling to get my rhythm back after Big Tens. I went in and just threw — you can’t think about all these little steps because that’s what slows you down and messes up rhythm. I am a rhythmic thrower, so I was like, let’s execute how coach said it, plain and simple, and it happened.”
When Tausauga refers to Big Tens, she is talking about her third consecutive conference individual discus championship May 12 in Iowa City, Iowa, when she threw 197-9 (60.28).
“After Big Tens we were a little flat, then she got (to Sacramento), embracing the excitement of the atmosphere and she started to stroke some throws,” Werskey said. “Her confidence started coming back.”
The effort by Tausaga on Friday was 7-feet, 11-inches further than national leader Shadae Lawrence of Colorado State, who has the No. 3 all-time mark in the event. UCLA sophomore Alyssa Wilson was second at the NCAA West Preliminary (199-4), followed by Lawrence in third (197-9).
It was a bittersweet afternoon for the Hawkeyes. While Tausaga had the top throw, her sophomore teammate Konstadina Spanoudakis was 13th with a mark of 177-11. Only the top 12 performers advance to the NCAA Championships on June 8 at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas.
“The field itself (at Sacramento), that is the furthest it has taken the past three or four years to make it out,” Werskey said. “I feel for Konstadina, because she had been battling some injuries but competed exceptionally well.”
Six of the top nine competitors at the NCAA West Preliminary recorded personal best marks Friday.
Ironically, Tausaga was equally excited about her second throw that resulted in a foul.
“I would have loved to hold on to it a little longer,” she said. “It was one of the best-feeling ones I had out of three.”
After the distance of the third throw was announced, Werskey thrust both arms to the sky.
“Once it comes off her hand with that kind of heat, I know something cool is about to happen,” Werskey said. “She is a heck of a competitor, too. There is still the ability to throw further.”
Already a three-time outdoor first-team All-American, Tausaga will return to the shot put ring Saturday at 7:15 p.m. (CT). She will throw fourth in the fourth flight.