ISU shot putter unable to capitalize on opportunity for third national title


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

Senior Christina Hillman prepares to throw the shot during the women’s shot put finals at the Big 12 Indoor Championships at the Lied Rec Center on Feb. 27. Hillman placed first with a best throw of 17.93 meters. 

Kyle Heim

The collegiate women’s record holder in the shot put wasn’t the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Christina Hillman and a third national championship, including indoor and outdoor.

Mississippi women’s shot putter Raven Saunders, who broke the record with a launch of 63 feet 1.25 inches, wasn’t even in the picture by the time Hillman had reached the final nine in the shot put at the NCAA Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.

The No. 1 challenge for Hillman throughout the indoor season had been mental roadblocks and not the elbow injury she suffered in December or the back injury that never completely healed.

“When I was in Arkansas, I kept thinking of certain numbers I had to hit,” Hillman said leading up to the NCAA Championships. “You know, I should do this. I must do that. In reality, that’s not the way to compete. That’s not the way you’re going to improve your self. I find it actually limiting in a way.

“I’d also give it the nervous. I felt like I was behind in a way, so dealing with those type of things — the mental game of it — was probably more stressful than the physical parts of it.”

Hillman was able to overcome those mental roadblocks at the Big 12 Championships on Feb. 27 at Lied Recreation Athletic Center, where she threw a season-best mark of 58 feet 10 inches.

Hillman knew Saunders would be tough to beat at the NCAA Championships, and instead of setting her sights on her third national title, Hillman said her goal for the meet was to just set a personal record.

“The first seed [Saunders] is really, really good,” Hillman said before the meet. “She’s done amazing things. I don’t expect to you know … she could have an off day and I could have a really on day, and maybe that will happen, but my expectations right now are just to do the best that I can.”

Hillman qualified for the finals of the event, where she would have to only defeat eight other shot putters to earn her second indoor national championship, and Saunders wasn’t one of those eight.

But Hillman wasn’t able to record a personal record and instead finished fourth with a mark of 57 feet 10.25 inches. The opponent she edged for first place at the Big 12 Championships, Kansas State’s Dani Winters, took the title with a meet-leading mark of 58 feet 11.5 inches.

Hillman has one more chance to earn a national title during the outdoor season, which will begin March 19 at the Tulsa Duels in Tulsa, Okla.