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CoB Student wins NCAA National Title

June 18, 2015, Tyler Wooten, SIUSalukis.com

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Saluki redshirt junior DeAnna Price completed her incredible comeback story after sitting out the 2014 season due to a knee injury, winning the NCAA hammer throw title and stunning the track world on an enormous NCAA meet record heave of 71.49m (234-06) at historic Hayward Field on Thursday afternoon.

Price, a native of Moscow Mills, Mo., took the lead on her third toss of 67.33m (220-10) and never relinquished it. Price improved her lead to four feet on her fifth throw on what was then a new career best at 68.33m (224-02). Price was the last to throw and knew going into her final attempt that she had become SIU's 17th NCAA champion. The Saluki junior stepped into the ring and let one fly a flabbergasting 71.49m (234-06), a four-meter PR to thoroughly cement her dominance with a 14-foot victory over defending NCAA champion Julia Ratcliffe of Princeton.

"I knew I had it in me," Price said. "I've been throwing really far at practice with all my different event balls, and Coach really got me ready for this meet. He told me this is it; this is the highest stakes meet you've been in. You go after it with everything you have."

"She just put everything in line and went after it," said SIU head coach Connie Price-Smith. "I went down to her before (the last throw) and said, `Now I want to see that little tiger come out.' She had already won it, so she had nothing to lose on her last throw."

This may have come as a surprise to most of the track world, but a select few who were present for warmups at the NCAA West Regional two weeks ago saw evidence that a monster throw was coming from Price.

"We saw evidence of what she could do at regionals when she dropped that 71-meter throw in warmups, and that surprised her," said SIU throws coach John Smith, who was recently named the USTFCCCA Division I Midwest Women's Assistant Coach of the Year.

"I knew I had it off the first turn, because with me when I get off my first one I set it up real nice and I could just feel it stretch," Price said. "And when I felt it stretch, I thought, `This is it; this is my chance.' I just really relaxed after that."

However, Price was a well-kept secret from most of the track and field public and media; in a pre-championships"Pick the Champ" promotion run by the USTFCCCA, six media outlets picked their champions for each event -- none picked Price to win the hammer.

"She's never been in a position to win before," Smith said. "It was good that nobody picked her to win."

"I like being the dark horse," Price said. "A lot of people didn't expect me to do what I did today."

Her sixth throw will be one for the ages in the track and field world. Price's toss broke the 2007 NCAA meet record by nearly one meter, which was set by Georgia's Jenny Dahlgren -- who stymied SIU's Brittany Riley for both the NCAA record and title that season. Today's throw makes Price the No. 3 collegiate thrower all-time (with the 8th-best throw ever), as well as the ninth-best American-born hammer thrower ever. The all-time top-five in NCAA history is imbued with Saluki maroon, with Riley in second, Price third and All-American Gwen Berry in fifth.

This season, it ranks as the fourth-best in the United States and is the best in the NCAA by a whopping two meters. Speaking of Riley, Price still has one more record to take down with her senior year: Riley's all-time SIU record of 72.51m (237-11), the only one better than Price's today after she leapfrogged Berry and three-time NCAA champion Jeneva McCall .

Speaking of McCall, Price is SIU's first hammer champion since McCall won the 2012 title. That season, McCall won both the indoor weight throw and the outdoor hammer.

Today's accomplishments cap an extraordinary collegiate season for Price, who also earned a third-place finish at the indoor national meet in the weight throw. She becomes SIU's 152nd All-American (78th ever outdoors, 22nd female to do so outdoors), to add to her two career first-team honors she had prior (2015 indoor weight, 2013 hammer).

Field Series
1. 63.72m (209-01)
2. 64.43m (211-04)
3. 67.33m (220-10) - Entered finals as the leader, never lost the lead
4. 66.19m (217-02)
5. 68.33m (224-02) - PR
6. 71.49m (234-06) - PR, NCAA Meet Record, 8th-best throw in NCAA history