Coming into the spring outdoor track and field season, Fort Hays State University sophomore Madison Wolf knew the Tiger javelin throwers would be pretty solid. Despite her nagging injuries and fellow sophomore Megan Honas only practicing and competing during the spring, the two were still among the favorites returning in the MIAA.
Then, Estefania Lopez — a transfer from the University of Valencia in Spain — came to Hays. What was going to be a solid 1-2 for FHSU became a nearly unbeatable 1-2-3 in the conference in the women’s javelin.
The first-, second- and third-place finishers from the MIAA conference meet, the trio will represent the Tiger women when they leave today for the NCAA Division II Outdoor National Championships in Allendale, Mich.
“All three of these ladies have improved in their technique,” said FHSU 10th-year throwing coach Andreas Maheras. “Plus they have good talent for throwing the javelin — the arm and the wrist.”
The trio has dominated this spring. Lopez, who Maheras said drastically improved since transferring to Hays in January, owns Division II’s top throw at 169 feet, 7 inches — also FHSU’s all-time leading throw. She threw that at the Emporia State University relays where FHSU took three of the top four spots. Wolf, who hasn’t really thrown during practice in approximately a month due to a case of epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), lately has been throwing just one attempt per meet, Maheras said.
During most practices, Wolf either lifts weights or works with medicine balls.
Her throw of 160-3 in the spring-opening Alex Francis Classic was good enough for an automatic-qualifying mark, and is the fifth-best throw in the nation. She had just one throw at MIAA, good enough for second place.
“I think we kind of (knew we were going to be good),” said Wolf, a Bennington product who was an All-American as a freshman with a sixth-place showing. “That’s not being cocky or anything. We push each other to be the best, and we knew we should probably be at the top of the competition.”
Especially with the addition of Lopez. With three years left of eligibility for FHSU, Lopez improved in her first spring in the United States by nearly 20 feet, throwing right around 150 in Valencia.
“The way I practice here, it’s a little different,” she said. “There, we practice maybe twice (in a week), but here we practice (almost) every day.”
“She’s a very athletic lady,” Maheras said of Lopez, who won four straight outdoor meets in the event this spring. “Adjusting her technique made her have that improvement.”
This is the first time in Maheras’ successful tenure FHSU will send three women in the same event to nationals.
Honas, from Ellis, owns the 11th-best mark in the nation — set in her third-place showing at MIAA. She will look for another personal-best and a possible All-American nod (top eight).
“I don’t really worry about everyone else, just what I can do personally,” Honas said. “We’re all competitive, though, so it helps.”
If seeding were to hold, Lopez could become FHSU’s first female outdoor national champion since Janet Eck won the high jump in 1998 and 99. Since, FHSU’s highest finish was back-to-back second-place showings for Makayla McPhail in the javelin in 2012 and 13. Lopez broke McPhail’s school record of 160-9.
“That day was a good day for me, but I really didn’t know it was going to be that good,” Lopez said. “I want to improve at nationals.”
The three are part of seven Tigers going to the national meet. Danielle Berry also will represent the Tiger women in the high jump.
On the men’s side, Brady Tien will compete in the pole vault, entering the meet with the nation’s fourth-best vault at 17 feet, which broke a 34-year-old FHSU record.
Cory Keehn will compete in the 10,000-meter run, and enters the field with the seventh-best time in the nation. Brenner Wells also will compete in the javelin.