AUSTIN, Texas - University of Northern Iowa senior Justin Romero has demonstrated a knack for saving some of his biggest performances for the biggest moments. He did not disappoint on Thursday at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds, and now Romero can say he has thrown the shot put further than any man in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Romero broke the all-time MVC record in the shot put and, along the way, advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the first time in his career.
On his first attempt of the evening, Romero threw 62-04.50 (19.01m), surpassing his previous school record by 1 foot, 3 inches. He broke the MVC all-time best by one inch, topping the mark set by John Smith of Southern Illinois in 1984.
"Going into the meet today, I felt really fresh," Romero said. "I didn't expect my first throw to be my biggest throw, but I put all my positions together and had a great one. I like throwing when it's hot, and it was hot today. It all came together nicely."
John Holler's UNI shot put school record of 58-06 in 1978 had stood for 34 years until Romero's remarkable run in 2012. Romero has now extended the UNI all-time best mark by nearly four feet, breaking the record three times since Mar. 31 by more than one foot on each occasion.
Romero claimed the eighth of 12 qualifying spots in the West Region for the NCAA Championships. The national meet will take place at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on June 6-9.
Seniors Aaron Stockstell and Olimpia Nowak each advanced to the quarterfinals of their respective events. After entering the meet with the 32nd-fastest qualifying time in the 800m, Stockstell recorded a time of 1:50.57 to qualify 24th for the quarterfinal. Nowak ran 59.92 in the 400m hurdles for the 22nd-fastest preliminary time. Both will compete again on Friday evening for the chance to advance to the national meet.
"I feel really good about our day today," said UNI head track & field coach Dan Steele. "Justin Romero punched his ticket to Des Moines with a new conference record, and Olimpia and Aaron advanced through to the next round. We'll have a lot of fun things happening over the next two days."
Senior Jarred Herring came up six spots short of advancing in the 100m dash, finishing in 33rd place with a time of 10.53 seconds.
Freshman Paige Knodle made her debut at the Preliminary Rounds, taking 37th place in the 400m hurdles at 1:01.20.
Sophomore Adam McDonnell competed in the first of his two events, taking 37th place in the javelin with a throw of 190-08 (58.11m). McDonnell will compete in the hammer throw on Friday afternoon.
Freshman Justin Baker also made his NCAA debut, placing 43rd in the shot put at 50-10.25 (15.50m)
Competition will continue Friday and Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin. Sebastian Barth (110m hurdles), Jenna Wexter (pole vault), Adam McDonnell (hammer throw) and Tanner Hurt (hammer throw) will join Nowak and Stockstell in representing UNI on Friday.