All-Americans Flowers and Wilson Head to NCAA Track and Field Championships

Update June 8: Victoria Flowers completed the 2012 outdoor season with a 15th place finish in the hammer throw at the NCAA Championships, and Heather Wilson concluded her season in the 800 m when she finished in 11th place in the preliminary races at the Outdoor NCAA Championship.

Victoria Flowers ’12 (ED) and Heather Wilson ’12 (CLAS) tried other sports before deciding to focus on track and field.

All-American Victoria Flowers '12 (ED) will compete in the hammer throw at the NCAA Championship Finals on June 6. (Steve Slade '89 (SFA) for UConn)

All-American Victoria Flowers '12 (ED) will compete in the hammer throw at the NCAA Championship Finals on June 6. (Steve Slade '89 (SFA) for UConn)

Flowers, a hammer thrower, played volleyball, ran cross country, and tried out for basketball. “I made the basketball team, but the coaches told me I looked like somebody who might do well in track and field,” she says. “I tried out after that. I got pretty good, pretty fast, and kind of stuck with it and got better.”

Wilson, who runs in the 800-meter race, tried playing soccer, softball, and other sports. “I did a little figure skating. That was interesting,” she says. “I did gymnastics for a month and that didn’t go well. In junior high, I went out for track and realized I had a knack for it.”

Now as track and field All-Americans, the Husky duo will compete in their respective events against the best in the nation at the NCAA Championship Finals in Des Moines, Iowa from June 6 to 9.

Flowers, a New England Championship record holder in the weight throw, and Wilson, a New England Champion in the 1,000-meter and mile, have previous experience in the NCAA Championships. They say they will focus on maintaining the routines that have resulted in their success.

“You try not to look at it differently. You want to go every week with the same goals,” says Flowers, who took third place in the Big East Championships and second place in the ECAC Championships in 2012. “Going against the best girls in the country, it’s more exciting. There are a lot of people on your level who throw exactly what you can or farther. You don’t want to be intimidated by what someone else is throwing. But it’s the same focus to go out there and give it your all. You have to be able to call on yourself and rely on your technique and training.”

She says her experience in other sports has helped with the hammer throw, an event that involves as much technique, footwork, and agility as pure strength. The hammer has an 8.82-pound ball attached to a 3-foot, 11-inch chain.

“All that fast feet agility from basketball, having to change direction fast helped me when I started out,” she says. “A lot of people think throwing is a lot of upper body strength, but it starts in the legs.”

All-American Heather Wilson '12 (CLAS) will compete in the 800 meter race during the NCAA Championship Finals in Des Moines, Iowa. (Steve Slade '89 (SFA) for UConn)

All-American Heather Wilson '12 (CLAS) will compete in the 800 meter race during the NCAA Championship Finals in Des Moines, Iowa. (Steve Slade '89 (SFA) for UConn)

Wilson, the 2012 Big East champion in the 800 meter event, says while there is a bit more thinking that goes into a championship competition, she tries to concentrate on her own race.

“It’s on a huge stage you want to perform well,” she says. “I’ve run against a lot of these girls before; I know their MO – how they go out in the race, how they finish. A lot of it is focusing on your own race. You can’t focus on what they do. It’s more focusing on beating people, racing, and executing to the best of your ability on that day.

Even as they compete in their own events, Flowers and Wilson find time to watch other competitors in different track and field events. So what other events might they try, if they could?

“I don’t know a lot about pole vault but I think it’s super exciting to watch,” says Wilson. “People are flying through the air. I pole vaulted once. Our high jumpers can high jump higher than I can pole vault. I realized pretty quick it wasn’t my event. I’ve always wanted to try javelin, but I don’t think I’d be good at it.”

“The 10K amazes me,” says Flowers. “Anyone who can sit there and focus and run for over half an hour and not get distracted … I think it takes a great amount of mental toughness to keep going.”