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School record lands thrower in national meet
Espiricueta took second in the javelin at the regional meet.
Samantha Espiricueta entered the NCAA Mideast Regional track and field meet ranked 18th in the women's javelin, making her a very long shot to qualify for nationals.
That long shot came through Saturday in, of all places, Louisville, Ky., where many long-shot horses have pulled off upsets.
Espiricueta, a Southeast Missouri State sophomore, topped her previous best throw entering the regional by more than 15 feet as she fired the javelin 166 feet, 8 inches.
That school-record performance netted Espiricueta a second-place finish, with the top five in each event earning a trip to the NCAA outdoor championships June 10 through 13 in Fayetteville, Ark.
"I am very excited," Espiricueta said.
Espiricueta's season-best throw entering the regional was 144-10, but Southeast coach Eric Crumpecker said it could have been much better.
"She's had some throws this year that were probably 160 feet that were ruled illegal," Crumpecker said. "The javelin has to come down point first to be legal and there are some officials out there that don't understand what that means.
"She's had some throws that were called flat that were about 160 feet, so I knew she was capable of something like this. Her throwing 166 surprises me, but not 160."
Espiricueta also surpassed her ranking at the regional last year when she finished seventh with 151-6, which was her previous career best until Saturday.
"Apparently she's a bit of a gamer," Crumpecker said. "She does well at the big meets."
Espiricueta came out of the preliminaries in seventh place with a top throw in the 147-foot range. Her first throw in the finals was nearly 153 feet to surpass anything she had done previously.
Then on her fifth of six throws in the finals, Espiricueta uncorked her record toss that qualified her for nationals for the first time. Purdue's Kara Patterson won the event easily with a throw of 192-1.
"I was pretty confident I could make it to nationals. I knew I had it in me," said Espiricueta, who won this year's Ohio Valley Conference javelin title after finishing second in 2008. "I thought I could get fourth or fifth, but second was a big surprise."
Espiricueta began her Southeast athletic career as a softball player before joining the track program during the 2007-08 school year.
"I wasn't really happy playing softball and I had done track all through high school," said Espiricueta, a native of the Kansas City suburb of Belton, Mo., who played only one year of softball at Southeast, in 2007.
Espiricueta broke a school record that had stood since 1989, when Lizz Barringer threw the javelin 162-1.
"That was a big goal of mine this year, to break the record," Espiricueta said.
Also Saturday for Southeast, senior Juli Koenegstein finished 17th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (11 minutes, 1.56 seconds), sophomore Josh Uchtman placed 20th in the discus (164-3), junior Brandon Colbert was 21st in the discus (164-2) and junior Ashley Brewer was 32nd in the shot put (46-9).
In the opening day of the meet Friday, Brewer placed 11th in the discus and Uchtman was 25th in the shot put.