Missouri junior Kearsten Peoples owns the nation’s best mark in the shot put during the outdoor track and field season, but she is hesitant to dub herself the favorite Saturday at the 2014 NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore.
“I’ve thrown the farthest of anyone this season,” said Peoples, who graduated from Ottawa High School in Kansas. “It kind of puts some pressure on me, but it’s more so exciting to know I have the best throw going in and there’s a good chance I could be a national champion.”
Peoples achieved her nation-leading shot put mark — 58 feet, 83/4 inches — on April 26 at the University of California-San Diego’s Triton Invitational in La Jolla, Calif.
Still, she won’t let that create undo pressure.
“I’m not the defending national champion from indoor and there’s a lot of competition,” Peoples said. “I want to believe I am the favorite, but I also know the girls I am throwing against are capable of big things. I’m obviously going to try my hardest.”
Of course, refusing to dub herself the favorite in no way diminishes her desire to return from Hayward Field will a gold medal in tow.
“I, of course, would really badly love to be the national champion,” said Peoples, who finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the shot put and narrowly missed qualifying for the London Olympics. “I finished third at indoor (nationals), so now I’m looking for that first-place finish. I want to hit over 60 feet. That’s my goal. No matter what happens, if I hit over 60 then I’ll be happy with whatever place that got me.”
Peoples finished sixth at outdoor nationals last season with a mark of 55-11. She was third at the 2014 NCAA indoor national championships in March (56-9 1/4).
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Peoples was sixth in the shot put and discus at outdoor nationals and she finished ninth in the shot put at the indoor championships in 2013.
Peoples also owns four Missouri records, including the program’s indoor (58-5 1/4) and outdoor (59-9 1/2) shot put records as well as the Tigers’ records for the discus (182-5) and hammer throw (69-6).
Now, she’s ready to add a new honor to her resume.
“I’ve been leading the country for a long time, but we all work hard,” Peoples said. “If I could win my event, though, it would validate all the hours I’ve put in and all the practice to actually reach this moment. You can’t get any better than a national champion as a college athlete.”
It won’t be easy.
Fellow Missouri junior Jill Rushin owns the nation’s second-best shot put mark during the outdoor season (57-93/4).
“You always want to be the best, so when you have someone right there every day at training and know they can potentially win or surpass your mark, it creates some internal pushing,” Peoples said. “Having a friend that’s also your competitor is kind of cool.”
It also provides a constant reminder for Peoples about she’s up against.
“Jill’s definitely one of the top competitors, but there’s other girls and we all can throw far,” Peoples said. We know we can, so it’s just who throws farther that day. … Nationals is a hard place to compete. You’re against the best and it’s all about the training you’ve been doing and bringing it together.”