DESMOINES, Iowa — During an outdoor season of predictable win after win, Scott City High School graduate Loren Groves shocked herself with her performance Wednesday.
The Kansas State junior qualified for the finals in both her speciality, the hammer, and the discus at the NCAA Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium.
Groves finished with the third-best toss of 206 feet, 7 inches in the hammer Wednesday afternoon, and followed with the fifth-best throw in the discus, 169-0, late Wednesday night.
"I never imagined I would qualify in both the discus and hammer," Groves said. "I was concentrating on the hammer. The discus was a bonus."
"It's a great accomplishment to qualify in both," Kansas State throws coach Steve Fritz said. "We weren't putting a lot of pressure on her with the discus. It went about as well as we expected."
Southern Illinois' Brittany Riley had the best hammer throw of 211-7.
While Groves flourished on the first day of competition, Southeast Missouri State's Miles Smith was glad to make it through to the semifinals in the 400 meters. The senior struggled with his conditioning while finishing third in his heat of the 400 in 46.65 seconds. Smith ran almost a second slower than his best time in 2008.
"I'm happy I advanced, but I'm not satisfied with the race," said Smith, a member of the U.S. 1,600 relay team that won gold at the 2005 World Championships. "It's my second race in two months. I'm trying to get used to my legs."
Smith said his hamstring, which has bothered him most of the spring, was a problem late in his race.
"It was tight," Smith said. "I was kind of scared going down the backstretch."
Smith qualified with the 13th-fastest time for the 400 semifinals, which are Friday night.
Smith's teammate, senior John Berry, missed qualifying for the finals in the men's long jump by 2 inches. Berry's first leap in the preliminaries, 24-11 3/4, was his best, and he finished 15th in his first appearance at the outdoor meet. The final qualifiers were Idaho's Elvie Williams and Akron's Cadeau Kelley, who jumped 25-1 3/4 and tied for 12th.
Groves is a two-time indoor all-American in the hammer throw, but she's looking for her first all-American finish at the outdoor level in either event.
Groves has seven straight outdoor wins in the hammer, the last two coming at the Big 12 Conference meet and the Midwest Regional meet. Groves said she's gaining confidence in the discus after throwing 180-6 and taking second at the Big 12 meet.
"Maybe I can step up and do some damage in the discus," Groves said.
Groves competes in the finals of both events Friday afternoon.