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Track & Field: ‘Second to none’: Aquilla cherishes breaking college shot put record

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Ohio State then-senior thrower Adelaide Aquilla competes at the Big Ten Championship on Feb. 26, 2021. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

Following the indoor track and field season, senior thrower Adelaide Aquilla felt discouraged.

Aquilla finished second in the NCAA Championship for shot put after recording a 17.95-meter throw. She had won the title both in 2020 and 2021, but fell just short of making it three in a row.

Just one year ago , Aquilla earned a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Team USA, performing in the preliminary round. She received Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year in both indoor and outdoor seasons. Once she returned to Ohio State prior to last season, Aquilla said she had to rediscover what she loved about the demands to be successful at shot put.

“One of the big things that I struggled with at the beginning of the year is after coming back from the Olympics and being at the pinnacle of everybody’s dream sports experience,” Aquilla said. “It was a little difficult for me to come back and want to compete again and get into that competition mode.”

Aquilla stamped her place back atop the NCAA by breaking the collegiate and her own program records with a 19.64-meter toss to earn her third outdoor national championship in Eugene, Oregon, June 9 — on her first official throw of the meet.

The former walk-on bested the previous mark by 0.18 meters set by Arizona State’s Maggie Ewen in 2018. Aquilla finished with each of the top-four throws during the NCAA Outdoor Championships, but only needed her first to claim gold.

“To come back and defend my title — and do it in a little bit of style — was an awesome feeling,” Aquilla said. “I was super excited to go out there and compete in Eugene.”

Aquilla said she credits throws coach Travis Coleman, who joined Ohio State’s program in September 2021 after coaching at Maryland for four years, for helping her do what she loves and pushing her to remain one of the best.

After one season working with someone who previously competed against him, Coleman said he recalled first meeting with Aquilla at the start of the year. While her goals seemed “lofty,” Coleman said Aquilla’s work ethic was “second to none.”

“I was trying to get a feeling for her mindset of, ‘Am I thinking the same things you’re thinking so that way we’re speaking the same language?’ The numbers she put out and the goal she put out was everything you would expect,” Coleman said. “It’s what you’d expect out of, arguably, maybe one of the best female athletes to ever be here at Ohio State with what she’s done.”

Former director of track and field and cross country Karen Dennis, who announced her retirement Monday , said Aquilla has been “amazing” to coach as an in-state athlete from Rocky River, Ohio, to global success.

“Adelaide didn’t have to stay here, and I attribute her staying here,” Dennis said. “That was a goal that Adelaide had was to win the national championship and defend her championship and break the record, and so to see her do that on her first throw, I mean, I was just super happy for her as well as for Travis because that’s his first national champion.”

Aquilla has one season of eligibility remaining during indoor track and field competition, and said she intends on using it with plans of pursuing a professional career as a track and field athlete. She’ll have a new leader at the helm of the program in Ohio State track and field alum Rosalind Joseph, who was announced as the program’s new director Tuesday.

Now the new holder of the farthest shot put throw in college, Aquilla said she’s “grateful” to see her work pay off. While it didn’t sink in until she returned from Oregon, Aquilla’s latest performance is one she won’t soon forget.

“Coming back and just having my boyfriend and just like a couple other friends come back and surprise me. They put some balloons on my car,” Aquilla said. “That’s when it really sunk in that I had broke the national record and won the NCAAs. It was an awesome experience.”

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