With one toss, sophomore Loren Groves broke the K-State weight-throw record, earned an automatic qualifying mark for the NCAA championships and recorded the second-best throw in the nation this season.
Groves’ throw in the Wildcat Invitational on Jan. 19 beat the previous school record by nine inches with a distance of 69-11.50.
“I could tell when I released it that it had a good arch on it; it had a lot of speed on it, and it was going to be the one to break the record,” Groves said.
As well as being the K-State record holder, Groves is the reigning Big 12 Conference champion in the weight throw, making her one of the favorites in this season’s Big 12 Championships, on Feb. 29 in Lincoln, Neb. She won the conference meet last year with a throw of 67-10.75.
“I feel good going in,” Groves said. “I’ve had a couple of rough meets, but we’ve been working on some things to get my technique down.”
She said she has been working on planting her foot on her third rotation and releasing at the right point.
Assistant coach Steve Fritz said he has not been surprised by Groves’ success and expects her to compete well at the conference meet.
“She’s been mostly consistent over the season,” Fritz said. “We had a little hiccup a couple of weeks ago in the meet at Air Force, but she’s been very consistent in workouts all year long. I would expect her to continue to throw around what she is capable of.”
Groves, who never competed in the weight throw until she came to K-State, also competes in the hammer throw and the discus during the outdoor season. She even ran the hurdles in high school, which she said has helped her succeed at K-State.
“Growing up, I was a hurdler,” Groves said. “I think my speed from the hurdles helped me transfer over to the hammer and weight, and I just had to gain strength. The weight program is great. It helped beef me up so I could still keep my speed so I can do well in the weight [throw].”
Fritz credits Groves’ success to her athleticism, her ability to avoid injuries and her willingness to learn quickly.
“Some people come in and struggle their first year or two and then take off,” Fritz said. “Others come in and it becomes natural movement to them right away. For Loren, it was pretty natural from the start.”
One of the key reasons Groves was able to pick up the weight throw so quickly, Fritz said, because she was not self-conscious about how she looked when she first learned. Fritz said throwers, like Groves, who can put aside how they look while learning progress faster.
Senior Laci Heller said Groves’ long arms are a major factor in her success.
“She is able to move fast and is relatively strong, but her arm length just gives her that much more radius from her body, which gives her a huge advantage,” Heller said.
Groves and the rest of the Wildcats will have one last chance to tune up before the conference meet when they host the KSU open on Saturday. Heller, who is also competing in the weight throw, and Groves have a chance to finish in the top two in the conference meet, an accomplishment Groves said would be amazing for the pair. After competing in the conference meet, Groves will compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 14-15, in Fayetteville, Ark. She placed sixth in the meet last season, earning All-American honors, and said she wants to keep performing well up to the championships this season.
“I just want to keep building,” Groves said. “I would like to throw over 21-meters from here on out.”