When she saw the 11:30 a.m. Thursday start time for the Penn Relays college women's shot put championship, Nikki Okwelogu worried that she might not be able to get warmed up in time.
But after about 15 minutes of competition, the junior from Harvard showed that she would be just fine. She executed a throw of 56 feet, 33/4 inches on her second attempt and saw that mark stand up to earn her the victory at the Mondschein Throwing Complex outside Franklin Field.
"I was a little disappointed at how early it was because it kind of takes me a while. I think it takes everyone a while to warm up," said Okwelogu, who is from Fresno, Calif. "But I tried to bring what I had. I knew it was going to be a really good competition. I was expecting to have to throw far in order to win."
Okwelogu, whose personal best is 57-111/4, which she threw indoors earlier this year, was the only contestant to top 17 meters. Cassie Wertman of Tennessee took second at 55-53/4, and Alyssa Robinson of Penn State finished third at 52-51/2.
Okwelogu, whose major is human evolutionary biology, already has qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in the shot put and wants to get to the Olympic standard of 58-3.
"Hopefully it falls later this season," she said.
Until then, she gets to admire her prize - a watch - for winning the Penn Relays.
"I had no idea," she said with a broad smile. "My coach and Cassie were telling me it was a watch. Medals are good, too, but this is really nice."
Megan Clark of Duke, the runner-up at last month's NCAA Indoor Championships, battled rain and cold to win the college women's pole vault on her final attempt at 13-91/4.
Mount St. Mary's Kelly Yanucil, a junior from Bordentown Regional High School, captured the college women's javelin with a winning throw of 164-4. Other field event winners were Shakinah Brooks of St. Augustine's in the long jump with a leap of 20-01/2, and Erica King of Findlay in the hammer throw at 192-2.
Albany's Grace Claxton, a senior from Puerto Rico, captured the college women's 400-meter hurdles, nipping Tia-Adana Belle of St. Augustine's at the wire. Claxton was timed in 56.69 seconds, with Belle crossing in 56.72.
In distance races Thursday night, Taylor Tubbs of Florida chased down Penn State's Tessa Barrett in the final 200 meters to win the college women's 5,000 in 16:07.55. Women from Providence captured two college events - Brianna Harda in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 10:04.77, and Catarina Roche in the 3,000 in 9:32.34.
Joshua Roche of Indiana took the college men's 3,000 steeplechase in 8:52.77.