June 9, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS – Junior Devin Stanford was the first Golden Gopher to qualify for the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and she will also be the first Gopher to compete in Eugene, Ore., this week.
Stanford is set to compete in the hammer throw on Wednesday, after advancing to the meet with a 10th-place finish at the 2014 NCAA West Prelims. Stanford is the first Gopher hammer thrower to advance to the NCAA finals since Liz Alabi competed in 2007, and she joins Minnesota's 4x400-meter relay in competing at this year's national championships.
“It means a lot,” Stanford said of advancing to the championships. “I wasn’t expecting it at all, so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to be there.”
Stanford recorded a mark of 191-11 (58.51m) at the prelims, which is her fourth-best throw of the 2014 season. She ranks third among Gophers all-time with a career-best throw of 196-07 (59.92m), set at the Spec Towns Invitational earlier this season.
After a successful season during which Stanford set career-best marks in both the hammer throw outdoors and the weight throw indoors (63-05.50, 19.34m), Minnesota assistant coach Peter Miller was not surprised to see Stanford move onto the NCAA finals.
“Unlike Devin, I thought it was very possible for her to advance with the way she has been training and how consistent she has been,” Miller said. “Obviously it’s huge. It’s a great accomplishment for her, and it’s great for our program. I don’t think it was as unexpected as she thought it was.”
Stanford improved her mark by almost a full meter from last year’s preliminary round and in doing so, also improved by 13 places in the standings. She finished 23rd with a then-career best throw of 189-1 (57.63m) at the 2013 NCAA West Prelims.
A big reason for Stanford’s improvement this season has been the addition of Miller, who is in his first year as an assistant coach working with the Gopher throwers. Miller, a former Golden Gopher student-athlete who earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Minnesota in 2008, was a three-year letterwinner for the Maroon & Gold and served as a team captain during his senior year.
“Working with Coach Miller, I’ve changed my technique a lot and I think it has been for the better,” Stanford said. “Indoor season didn’t go exactly as I had hoped, but once we got outdoors I was really excited to be throwing discus and hammer again. I’m going to keep working at it and hopefully keep improving.”
Stanford is not the only Gopher thrower to have had success this season. All eight of Minnesota’s throwers set career-best marks in one or all of their events this year.
“It’s awesome,” Stanford said of the throwers’ success. “We’re really close, and we’re all friends away from track, too. It’s just awesome working with your really close friends every day and being teammates as well.”
Her friendships on the team make Stanford’s opportunity to represent the Maroon & Gold at the national meet even sweeter. In her first NCAA championships appearance, Stanford isn’t putting too much pressure on herself and just plans to soak the experience in.
“I’m not really expecting to do anything in particular,” Stanford said. “I’m just going to have fun and see what happens.”
In that way, she and her coach are on the same page.
“I don’t really have any expectations for nationals since just getting there is a great accomplishment,” Miller said. “Hopefully she will continue to build her confidence, and we can set some expectations at this time next year. Right now, it’s time to enjoy the ride, keep training and see what happens.”
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