June 4, 2012

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OXFORD, Ohio - Making the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships as a freshman is no small feat. But for Miami University sophomore javelin thrower Tori Paterra, that was only the beginning of what she hopes will be a very illustrious RedHawk career after qualifying for the NCAA Championships again this year.

Paterra, a native of Elizabeth, Pa., will compete in the javelin at the National Championships Wednesday, June 6 at 3:40 p.m. ET (2:40 p.m. local) at Drake University's Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Last year's NCAA Championships were at Drake Stadium as well but this year, Paterra is the lone RedHawk representative at the meet.

"It's really exciting to be able to go back and get that experience again. To come in as a freshman and go there, I was in awe, so I didn't compete my best. Now I'm excited to go back and know the competition, know the surroundings and see what I can do," Paterra said.

In addition to last year's trip to Des Moines, Paterra made another trip to Drake Stadium this year as she took part in the famed Drake Relays April 28, when she finished 11th in the javelin going against some of the same competition she'll see Wednesday. She now knows what to expect at the NCAA meet this time around.

"I've competed against these girls a couple of times now," Paterra explained. "This will be my third trip to Drake and I know the runway, I know what it looks like and how I've thrown there so hopefully that will help me with my nerves. But I like to be a little bit nervous before I compete just so I know that there's something there."

Paterra clinched a spot at the 2012 NCAA Championships by finishing fifth at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds May 24 in Jacksonville, Fla. She fired a throw of 47.34m/155-3, which is the ninth-best throw in school history, all of which she owns. She was seeded 10th entering the East Prelims after a season-best throw of 48.46m/159-0, which is the fifth-best throw of her career, at the All-Ohio Championships April 20 but improved on her seed in the prelims. The top 12 finishers in the field of 48 from both the East and West Prelims advanced to the NCAA Championships for a final field of 24.

At last year's NCAA meet, Paterra placed 20th with a heave of 44.53m/146-1, earning her Honorable Mention All-America. She enters this year's championships seeded 17th out of the 24 and is the second-highest seeded sophomore in the field. DePaul's Melissa Fraser holds the top seed overall with a mark of 52.96m/173-9. The top eight finishers earn First-Team All-American while the next eight are tabbed Second-Team All-American.

"I definitely want to place better than I did last year, that's always a goal. I really want to be an All-American considering my goal in general was to win MACs [MAC Championships] every year I was here and then be a three-time All-American, so hopefully I can do that this year," Paterra said.

While her goal of being a three-time All-American is certainly still attainable, Paterra fell a bit short of winning a Mid-American Conference title this year, after capturing the MAC javelin crown as a freshman last year. She finished third in the javelin at the MAC meet May 10 after a toss of 45.07m/147-10. Kent State's Sara Oczypok won the title while Central Michigan's Milica Kulidzan nabbed second.

"At MACs, I had a really good throw but I fouled on it, so I was like `I know it's there,'" Paterra explained. "I was just thinking `we're going to get it at regionals, we're going to go to nationals and that's what's going to happen. We're not going to win MACs, we're going to be an All-American this year,' so that's kind of what my mentality has been since MACs even though it was a bit of a disappointment."

So far, Paterra has been right on her train of thought, rebounding well from the MAC Championships at the regional meet. She will even have a chance to exact some revenge on her MAC counterparts this year as three of the other four MAC javelin throwers who qualified for the East Prelims finished in the top 12 to join her in Des Moines. Paterra had the top throw of the five MAC javelin throwers at the East Prelims but Kulidzan was right behind in sixth while Oczypok and her teammate from Kent State, Cheryl Carlisle, took 10th and 11th, respectively.

"I think it's awesome," Paterra said of so many MAC qualifiers in the javelin. "The girl from Kent (Oczypok), we competed against each other in high school. We were from rival high schools. We've been through a lot together. We've always beaten each other and she got me this year at MACs. It's exciting because you know more people and you can talk to more people. Even though we're competition, at the same time, we're friends so it's good for the MAC."

Although Paterra may be amicable with her fellow MAC throwers, they can't be happy she still has two years left in her Miami career. That's two more years she will contend for a MAC title and two more years to possibly earn All-America status. It's also two more years she has to break her own school record of 49.91m/163-9, which she set in her very first outdoor meet as a RedHawk at Vanderbilt March 26, 2011. Throughout the rest of her rookie season, she posted six more marks that rank in Miami's all-time top-10 throws and added three this year to own the entire top-10 list under the new javelin specifications (post 1998).

"I didn't think I could rewrite the whole thing that fast. I didn't even think about that when I was throwing until I read an article the other day that said they were all owned by [me] and I was like `that's crazy,'" Paterra admitted. "It just gives me more of a drive to keep getting my numbers up there and making it harder for other people (to reach)."

Setting a school record in her first outdoor meet, however, would not have been possible if not for her father, Greg, who had brief stints in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills from 1989-1991.

"My father is my hero. He taught me everything I know about competing and being an athlete. He's always pushed me to be the best that I can," Paterra said enthusiastically. "He just learned how to text, so before every competition and meet he sends me a three or four page text message about a pump-up speech and it gets me going."

Paterra can always count on her father to keep her focused and motivated, as well, even in the offseason.

"He always tells me to never stop training. That always sticks in my mind. He's big on praying and to look up to God too. That's definitely a big thing that he's always telling me," Paterra shared. "He says if I stop training than everyone else is getting better. He's that person that's like `you better get to the gym' and I don't always feel like going but he gets me there. It's fun in the summer working out with him because he says `you need to do this and this and this.' It's always a hard work out but I get through it and I'm a better athlete for it."

Although she cherishes the time with her dad, Paterra's not quite ready to trade in her throws coach at Miami, Stacey Wannemacher.

"Stacey can be pretty tough but if my dad was my full-time coach I'd probably rip my hair out," Paterra joked.

With Paterra, who left Monday for Des Moines, the only Miami athlete left competing this year in any sport, she's needed her dad and Wannemacher to keep her training hard leading up to the NCAA meet. Last year, she had company during her June practices as Miami's Rachel Patterson competed in the 5000m run at the NCAA Championships but Patterson graduated in 2011 and no other `Hawks qualified for this year's meet.

"Sometimes it's hard because you're the only one," Paterra said of training last week. "It's nice too but I hope next year we get more girls in (to nationals). I know our team is good and we can accomplish a lot so hopefully I'll have some companions there next year."

Along with receiving text messages from her dad, Paterra usually listens to music and will even dance sometimes prior to a meet to keep her mind off of the javelin and the competition, something she says can really mess her up.

"Anything that can calm me down, usually I'll say a prayer or anything like that so I'm not thinking about javelin but something else," she said of her pre-meet routine. "When I think about everything that involves javelin I just go crazy and it's not a good day."

Paterra may not want to think about the javelin on Wednesday, but she knows in her head what she needs to do to reach her goal of being an All-American and improving on her 20th-place finish from last year.

"My best ever is 163-9 so I feel if I can hit that or even a little higher like 165 to 170 (feet), I should definitely be in the top eight. If I can just throw 155 to 160 I should at least improve," she rationalized. "There's been a lot more competition this year, especially in the West, but just in general a lot of freshmen have come up and shown themselves. If I can hit 155 to 170 I should be in a good standing, but we'll see."

Live results and live streaming of the NCAA Championships will be available at godrakebulldogs.com.

--MURedHawks.com--