Abigail Winn wrote this piece about Danniel Thomas, the NCAA shot put champion. Abigail Winn wrote this piece on Danniel Thomas representing both Kent State and being a role model for young woman in Jamaica.
Abigail Winn is a sophomore at the University of Oregon studying journalism and music.
By Abigail Winn
EUGENE, Oregon — Kent State University senior Danniel Thomas was not fazed by the women she was competing with for the NCAA shot put title, including two-time NCAA outdoor champion and 2016 Olympian Raven Saunders.
“I just go out there and try to be in my own zone,” said Thomas, who competed in the Rio Olympics for her native Jamaica. “I didn’t really let the fact that she was in the competition get in my head. If I do what I’m supposed to do, I will do very well.”
She did more than well. Thomas won the title with her final throw of 62 feet, 10 inches, over four feet further than second-place Louisville senior Emmonnie Henderson, who threw 58-9 1/2. USC post-grad and former Oregon Duck Brittany Mann took third with 57-4 3/4.
Saunders, the favorite, finished fourth. Her best throw was her first, 57-3 3/4, and she fouled on four of her six throws.
“They all are amazing competition,” Mann said. “We have a very special group of throwers around us.”
Thomas said she knew she was taking a risk when she left Jamaica to come to the United States for sports, but ultimately it was the best decision. “I told Coach when I was leaving, ‘It doesn’t matter where I go. I’m a hard worker and it’s gonna happen.'”
Thursday’s win made it all worth it.
“It has validated everything,” she said. “I had a terrible two weeks of practice, so this is it. It was all the background training, all the early season training, that has finally paid off.”
Looking ahead to the world championships this summer, Thomas hopes that her success in the American collegiate program inspires kids in her home country looking for similar success.
“It doesn’t matter what school you go to,” she said. “If you do leave and take that risk, it can happen.”