Freshman goes to Nationals as No. 2 in NCAA


By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

The Saluki throws team expected a lot this year out of the No. 1 women’s throwing recruit in the nation, and she has not disappointed.

Freshman thrower Raven Saunders won the Missouri Valley Conference indoor championship in shot put Sunday, adding to a long list of achievements early in her career.

With a throw of 17.98 meters Saunders is now the all-time SIU, MVC and American Junior record holder. Saunders was also named the MVC Female Field Athlete of the Meet.


“That was my first goal,” she said. “I wanted to win the Championship and make it to Nationals.”

Saunders and Louisiana State senior Tori Bliss have battled for the No. 1 spot in the nation in February. Saunders took the lead from Bliss on Feb. 7 and held the lead until Bliss regained it on Feb. 27. 

Throws coach John Smith said he is happy Saunders is not No. 1 going into the NCAA Indoor Championships.

“Leading the country when you’re young is kind of a kiss of death going into a major meet,” he said. “The last two meets have been tremendous and she’s highly consistent, which is exactly what I want to see going into nationals.”

Track and field coach Connie Price-Smith was not surprised by Saunders’ conference performance. She said it was expected of Saunders, who has won five of the seven shot put events this season.

At the beginning of the year, Smith said Saunders had a million dollar arm but two cent legs. He said this has been a major area of improvement.

“I think her legs now are up to $5.99; they’re not 2 cent anymore,” he said. “It’ll take another year… but they’re about 60 percent of where they need to be.”  


Smith said he would not be surprised to see Saunders win the NCAA indoor shot put championship because of her work ethic and how badly she wants it.

Saunders said she tries not to think about how good she might be in the future. 

“All the stuff I could do is mind-blowing,” she said. “The sky is the limit, I can only go up from here.” 

Saunders competes at the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 13 in Fayetteville, Ark.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.