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The brilliance of Laulauga Tausaga

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On the remarkable success of one of Iowa’s best athletes

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Track & Field: NCAA Championships
That winning throw? Yeah, it would have placed sixth at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, Iowa thrower Laulauga Tausaga did something no one in the history of the school had ever done before.

She won a NCAA discus title.

The throw itself, which actually came in the preliminary flight before the finals, is impressive. Her toss went 207 feet, 6 inches (63.26 meters) and according to the official list compiled by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), it is the 16th best throw in the entire world this year. It’s also the 10th-best throw in NCAA Championship history.

Tausaga, a junior, is the first Hawkeye NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Champion since 1985, when Nan Doak won the women’s 10,000 meters. Star 400 runner — and eventual multiple-time Olympian — Kineke Alexander was the last champ of any sort for the Hawkeyes, when she won the indoor 400 meter championship in 2006.

The achievement itself is obviously very impressive, though hardly a shocker. Tausaga finished fourth at the NCAA Track and Field meet last year and seventh as a freshman. She’s now a five-time All-American and a four-time Big Ten Champion, with Iowa’s records in the indoor and outdoor shot put, the indoor weight throw and the discus.

She also won the 2017 Pan American Junior Championships and placed third at the 2018 USATF Championships, where she was competing against Olympians as well as other professional athletes and college standouts.

Speaking of the Olympics, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo are very much in play. Tausaga’s 207-6 would have easily won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials meet as Nike’s Whitney Ashley took the title with a toss of 204-3.

Tausaga’s winning throw at the NCAA Championships is the third-best toss by an American this year and it will be fun to watch what she does at the 2019 USATF Championships. Winning that would be impressive and put her further on the national track and field radar than she already is.

If you want an honest opinion, it will be something of a shocker if she isn’t headed to Japan in the summer of 2020, barring injury. The championship winning throw from the Iowa standout would have placed sixth at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Yes, sixth.

The numbers and awards certainly do her justice, but not only is Tausaga one of Iowa track’s greatest athletes ever — including this year, the Hawkeyes have had just 14 total NCAA track and field champions — but perhaps will soon be one of the greatest to ever come through Iowa City.

And she’s only getting better. Tausaga was remarkably consistent in the discus this year, hitting over 61 meters (just past 200 feet) in five of the 10 meets she was entered in. Compare that to 2018, when her average final discus throw was a hair over 187 feet.

She only went over 60 meters once last year, but did it six times this season and her shortest throw (that she took as her final) was 57.13 meters.

If she can add another 10 to 15 feet consistently to her tosses, we might be talking about her as a dark horse world medalist contender in a few short years. Imagine what she will be able to do with year-round specialized coaching (massive, massive credit to the Iowa staff, especially throws coach Eric Werskey & former coach Andrew Dubs) as well as a sole focus on throwing as a professional career.

Iowa’s had six Olympic medalists throughout its history, with the last coming in 1996 as Anthuan Maybank took gold as part of the United State’s 1600 meter relay team in Atlanta. Maybe that is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but there is simply so much potential for Tausaga to add her name to a quite exclusive list.

For now, though, enjoy the tremendous success of Tausaga. Try and get out for the the Musco Twilight Invitational next year — it’s often Iowa’s only home outdoor meet — at Cretzmeyer Track.

Because now you will have the chance to see a NCAA Champion and perhaps future Olympic medalist at work. Simply put, that is just one hell of a rare opportunity.