Gibson Southern’s Hillyard to compete at AAU Junior Olympics

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By Chad Lindskog, [email protected] / @chadlindskog

Maria Hillyard stayed late after every track practice this spring.
She’d practice a few more throws or lift weights, not because she was told. Hillyard wanted to do anything to get better as a freshman at Gibson Southern.

She hasn’t stopped since the season ended.

Hillyard will compete at the 50th annual AAU Junior Olympics next week in Humble, Texas — a suburb of Houston. She’s competing in the 15-16 age group in shot put and discus, which she has continued to prac
tice every Tuesday and Thursday morning all summer.

“I think that’s what carried me through my freshman year,” Hillyard said. “I was doing more, doing stuff I didn’t have to do. You have to keep doing it to get better.”

Hillyard qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics by placing in the top five at district and regional meets.

The district meet was held at Pike High School in Indianapolis and only two others competed. The regional, held at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, featured athletes from Indiana and Illinois. Hillyard finished fourth in shot put and third in discus.

“I’ll go out here and I’ll do my best and if I don’t make it that far, that’s OK because I did my best,” Hillyard thought before beginning her first summer of AAU competition. “I definitely did not think I would get this far.”

Hillyard isn’t intent on winning anything. She just wants to set a personal best of 34 feet in the shot put — something she’s worked toward since before her freshman year.

“I’m sure that will move me up in the ranks, but that’s been my goal for a long time,” Hillyard said.

She’s seeded 36th of 74 entrants in shot put at 31 feet and 1/2 inch. In discus, she’s 37th of 78 at 94 feet, 10 inches.

Although shot put is her favorite of the two, she’s starting to enjoy discus. As an eighth-grader, Hillyard was only throwing about 80 feet. The personal best she set this spring was 102 feet, 2 inches.

It’s that steady progression and encouragement from Gibson Southern coaches Ron Kahle and Jay Sparks that keeps her going.

Hillyard is excited to meet other competitors from across the country and maybe learn some different techniques next week.

Although she knows she’ll be nervous before her throws, it’s another opportunity to get better.

“You’re going out here, you’ve thrown in rings before,” Hillyard said. “It’s just like any other ring, it’s just like any other meet. Throw in between the sectors and do your best.”

One Comment

  1. Johnny Adamson

    August 3, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    That is so awesome way to go Maria the whole community is so proud of you !!!

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