K-State track and field star speaks about her No. 1 ranking

Junior thrower Dani Winters has been soaring to new heights in shot put and weight throw this season, recording new personal bests, winning first place five times, recording ten top-three finishes, and even breaking the K-State women's shot put record. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Dani Winters, senior in communication studies, grew up in Plainville, Kansas – a small town with a population of about 1,900 people. Starting at a young age she showed a lot of interested in track and field. The summer after fourth grade her dad, who was also her track coach at the time, taught her how to throw shot put.

“I liked it because I felt strong, but I preferred hurdles and high jump at that time,” Winters said.

Winters had to switch her focus to shot put and discus throw, after suffering a patellar subluxation, where the kneecap is pulled towards the outside of the knee when running and jumping.

“The first time I experienced a patellar subluxation, I was in the eighth grade at track practice,” Winters said. “I thought that I had just tripped, and my leg swung over quickly and made me fall. What really happened was that my knee cap had moved out of place and back in.”

According to Winters, during her sophomore year, she threw 15.93 meters. At the regional meet she was devastated when she did not qualify for the finals.

“That was the worst feeling in the whole world,” Winters said. “I was supposed to make it and I could have, but I didn’t.”

The tides turned this year when, according to Winters, she threw 16.73 meters at her second meet. This was the first time throwing over the 16-meter mark in collegiate competition. It was not long after that when Winters surprised everyone, including herself, when she threw 17.45 meters in Lincoln, Nebraska – this is her lifetime personal best.

Winters’ parents, aunt and uncle, cousins, roommates and her boyfriend Ivan Hartung, were all present to witness and celebrate her victory throw.

“I was very shocked because it was such a large PR (personal record),” Hartung said. “When we saw the mark on the board, we all yelled out loud. It was great to see the rest of the crowd cheering for her after the competition.”

Hartung, senior in kinesiology, is also a part of the K-State track and field team. He received an All-American title when he finished in 16th place in the men’s javelin throw at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

To Hartung, Winters’ dedication is what makes her a great athlete.

“She does every rep to the best of her ability,” Hartung said. “If a practice doesn’t go well she gets frustrated, but it motivates her more and more through each practice.”

When comparing previous seasons with this year, Winters said this one is significantly better. She said she credits K-State throws coach Greg Watson, who helps her to critically think about each throw and gain deeper understanding of how the small details in her technique influence her results.

Winters has been training with Watson for two years. Winters said good communication and respect between them have greatly contributed to her success so far this year.

Winters trains Monday through Saturday. She spends between 12-15 hours per week at training. An average week’s training schedule includes six shot put sessions, three weight throw sessions and four lifting sessions. She throws at least 40 shot puts each throwing session.

Jason Coon, freshman in open option and thrower on the track and field team, has trained with Winters for just over a year.

“She gives 100 percent at every practice and never complains about the difficulty of a workout,” Coon said.

Even when things may not have been going their best for a good portion of last year, Winters knew that with patience it would all come together.

“What makes Dani successful are her attitude to compete and her gigantic heart to never give up,” Coon said.

She also makes time to study hard. Winters was honored by K-State Athletic Department and the Big 12 for academic achievements.

“My dream job after college would be an elementary teacher who is also a coach, a blogger, an activist and a mother,” Winters said.

In her free time Winters likes to sing, write songs and write blogs. She also appreciates time with her team mates.

“I love to hang out with my teammates, who are some of my closest friends,” Winters said.

Winters’s goal for both indoor and outdoor season was to qualify for the NCAA Championship. Only the top 16 athletes in the nation will qualify to compete at the NCAA Indoor National Championship, held March 13-14 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Winters is currently ranked sixth and has qualified for the championships. Her plan is to approach the championships like any other meet.

“I try to go in every meet focusing on technique and I know if I do it right, it will go far,” Winters said.