Southeast's thrower is excited to compete at nationals.
Southeast Missouri State track and field coach Eric Crumpecker thinks it would be foolish to put anything past Samantha Espiricueta based on her stunning regional performance.
That's why Crumpecker believes his sophomore javelin thrower should be in the mix for All-American honors when the NCAA outdoor championships begin today in Fayetteville, Ark.
To make All-American, an athlete must be one of the top eight American finishers in his or her respective event.
"There are usually a few foreign athletes in the javelin," Crumpecker said. "I definitely think she's got a shot at being an All-American."
Espiricueta entered the recent NCAA Mideast Regional with only the 18th-best throw in the region, which ranked her 76th in the country. She wound up finishing second to qualify for nationals, topping her previous best throw entering the regional by more than 15 feet as she fired the javelin a school-record 166 feet, 8 inches.
"That was so exciting and I'm really excited about nationals," Espiricueta said. "I can't wait."
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.
While Missouri high schools do not compete in the javelin, Espiricueta said she became somewhat familiar with the event while participating for her AAU track team. Also aiding her was her softball background.
"The fact I have a strong arm helps," she said.
Crumpecker is sure that Espiricueta's best days in the javelin are ahead of her, meaning her final two seasons of collegiate eligibility could be special.
"She's really only been at this two years," Crumpecker said. "She's getting better all the time and she'll continue to get better. It really takes three or four years before you know what you're doing. In two years, there's no telling how good she'll be."
Espiricueta will compete in today's preliminary round, with the finals Friday. She has the 18th-best throw among the 27 competitors in the national field.
"She had the 10th-best throw in all the [four] regionals, so she's capable of doing well," Crumpecker said.
Espiricueta, who won this year's Ohio Valley Conference javelin title after finishing second in 2008, said that while making All-American would be a thrill, her goal is to set another personal record.
"I think if I throw like I did at regionals, I have a chance at All-American, but my goal is just to PR," said Espiricueta, one of only three OVC athletes to qualify for the national meet. "If I PR, I'll be happy. I just want to keep getting better."
Since Espiricueta will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, she said nerves shouldn't be a problem entering her first national meet.
"If I don't do it this year, I'll hopefully have another chance," she said.
Scott City High School graduate Loren Groves will shoot for her fourth All-American award during the NCAA outdoor championships.
A Kansas State senior, Groves recently won her second straight Midwest Regional title in the hammer throw. Her toss of 202-6 was her second longest of the season.
Groves earned All-American status by placing sixth in the weight throw at the 2007 indoor national meet, sixth in the weight throw at the 2008 indoor nationals and fifth in the hammer throw at the 2008 outdoor nationals.
Groves has continued to excel despite tearing her shoulder labrum the week before this year's indoor nationals. She is scheduled for surgery shortly after this week's meet concludes.
Groves, who recently was named an Academic All-Big 12 first-team selection for the fourth time, will compete in today's preliminary round. The finals are Friday. She is ranked eighth in the 27-person field.