When Sarah Schmidt was a member of the Litchfield track and field team, she was one of the top discus throwers in the state. Having just completed her junior season at Carthage College, Schmidt has raised the bar to be among the best throwers in the country.
The 2016 Litchfield graduate earned All-American honors in two events at the NCAA Division III outdoor track and field meet on May 23-25 in Geneva, Ohio. She finished third in the shot put and seventh in the hammer throw to accomplish the feat.
“It feels really good to finally see the hard work pay off,” Schmidt said. “I’m following in the footsteps of some great athletes that came before me (at Carthage) … It’s good to feel like I’m not letting them down and that I’m continuing the program in that way.”
Schmidt, a Darwin native, qualified for the national meet in three events: shot put, hammer throw and discus. Though discus was her forte in high school, she couldn’t reach the final flight in the event for the third year in a row. She had a long toss of 40.62 meters, or about 133 feet.
“Discus has not gone my way at nationals the past three years,” she said. “Even though the first day of discus was disappointing, I knew I could do my best on the next two days.”
Friday’s event was shot put, which she had earned All-American honors with a seventh-place finish last year. This time she upped her spot to third with a toss of 14.71 meters, or about 48 1/4 feet. Her toss earned her back-to-back All-American status in the event, and set a new school record.
The success is particularly surprising when taken in the context of her high school career where Schmidt did not see shot put success.
“I threw shot for fun if it was an open invite because I wasn’t in the top five Litchfield throwers,” Schmidt said. “My best in high school was 28 feet for shot put, and, even going into college, I was going to focus more on discus.”
She attributed the jump in performance to her coach, who has also helped her in the weight room and refine her technique. But even her mentors didn’t see her performance growing as much as it has.
“Even my coach joked, saying, like, ‘Sarah Schmidt and shot put record holder never crossed my mind in the same sentence, ever,’” she said. “I didn’t like it for a really long time in high school and even a little bit into college. But shot put is becoming my new favorite I think.”
The final day of the meet featured the hammer throw, an event that was brand new to Schmidt when she first stepped onto campus.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “My freshman year in our fall training I actually fell and split my knee open, so I had to take a couple weeks off because the ring was slippery or something while I was throwing hammer. So I ended up getting stitches and was in a knee brace for a few days.”
Last year she finished in 11th at nationals in the hammer throw with a toss of 52.37 meters, or about almost 172 feet. She entered the first flight of the hammer this year just looking to reach finals, and mustered a toss of 51.23 meters, or about 168 feet. Though the throw was a slightly shorter than last year, it was enough to slip her into finals. She didn’t improve on the distance in the finals but still earned herself a seventh-place finish and her second All-American honor of the weekend.
“I knew I had potential in hammer, especially because I have long arms, and it helps with the spinning of the ball,” she said. “I came into the competition in the lower half of the field. So my goal was just to move up and if I could get into finals and place, that would be great, but I wasn’t expecting it.”
The biology major graduates next spring, meaning she has one more season of throwing left. She hopes that a lighter class schedule next year will afford her more time to train and focus on her final year of athletics. Having gone from being an All-American in one event last year to two this year, Schmidt has in mind the progression that she would like to see next year.
“I’m happy to add another event to my All-American awards,” she said, “but I still hope that next year I can round it out and do all three of my events.”