Laulauga Tausaga is taking her throwing talents to the world stage this fall.
Tausaga, a senior-to-be on the Iowa track team, placed third in the women’s discus at the Toyota U.S.A. Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Sunday at Drake Stadium. In doing so, she qualified for the 2019 IAAF World Championships, scheduled for Sept. 28 through Oct. 6 in Doha, Qatar.
“After NCAAs, we worked to make this world team,” Tausaga said. “So to solidify those dreams is everything. It’s not a dream anymore. It’s a reality. It’s amazing.”
Tauasaga had a long toss of 62.08 meters (203-8 feet), which was less than a meter ahead of fourth-place Whitney Ashley (61.52), a 2016 Olympian. Valarie Allman, a former standout at Stanford, took first with a long throw of 64.34 meters. Kelsey Card, a Wisconsin grad, finished second at 63.33.
This accomplishment comes just a month after Tausaga won an NCAA title in the same event. The 21-year-old won handily, with a long toss of 63.26 meters, and became the first Iowa women’s track athlete to win a national title since 2006.
Her memorable junior season continued here in Des Moines, a place she hasn’t had much luck.
Back in April, Tausaga was here for the Drake Relays. She won the discus, finished second in the shot, and eighth in the hammer throw. The long tosses that weekend were far from her personal bests. It made her nervous entering this week.
"I was like, 'Here we go; we’re at Drake again,'" she said. “Drake is great, with the Drake Relays, but I just never seem to get it here. So I was terrified the whole week.
"But I stepped into that ring today and said, 'You know, I’m not going to let this ring conquer me. I’m just so happy to represent Iowa — here in Iowa — and kick some butt.'"
On Sunday, Tausaga flashed her mettle. After faulting in her first toss, she threw a 61.51, which took her to the finals. She faulted again on her third throw, and Ashley hit 61.52 to overtake Tausaga for third.
The switch lasted just one round. On her fourth throw, Tausaga hit her 62.08, which held up as the third-best in the competition. Her ability to flush bad throws and bounce back is something she’s worked on over the last month.
“It just showed my maturity,” she said. “That’s something that my coach has tried to teach me, and I didn’t really understand until this meet. These women are professionals, and I’m still trying to be in this collegiate system.
"I told myself, 'You know, if you don’t make the team, you need to hit a mark that’s going to propel you into the next season.' Then hit that 62, finish third, and make this team — it’s something beautiful. I’m just so happy."
A strong performance in Qatar could solidify her as a bonafide contender for the 2020 Olympic team next year.
For now, she’s not letting herself think that far. There’s more work to do, she said, especially now that her season has been extended for another couple of months.
And she’s ready to show the world what she’s got.
“It really feels like I’ve jumped to another tier,” Tausaga said. “I have to tell myself, 'You have the opportunity to be great.' This solidifies my thought process.
“We’re just adding onto greatness as we go. That’s the best way I can explain it.”
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Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
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