Card heading to Rio
By Eric A. Becker
The Summer Olympics feature the most talented athletes in the world competing in their destined sport.
Some realize their goal of representing their country, many however, come up short.
In 2016, Kelsey Card, pride of Plainview and 2011 graduate of Carlinville High School, punched her ticket to Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 Olympic Games after finishing third at the United States Track and Field Olympic Trials Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
It was the same site where Card a month earlier had won the NCAA Division I championships in the discus while performing in her final collegiate meet for the University of Wisconsin.
Monday was the first time she got normal sleep in several days, and is still waiting for the moment to sink in as she gets ready for the Olympics.
“Last night I slept somewhat normally,” Card said via telephone Tuesday afternoon. “Maybe it will sink in when I’m there (Rio de Janeiro). Hopefully.”
She wasted little time, getting the Olympic qualifying mark in her first of six throws in the final Saturday afternoon in Oregon.
“It’s ironic because I was talking with Dave (Astrauskas, throwing coach) and we said I never have the best throw on the first one,” Card said. “Karma happens sometimes. I went out there with a good, easy first throw, and then kind of tightened up the rest of the way through.”
Card knew before her final throw that she, indeed, had become an Olympian.
“I had been following the marks throughout the rounds, so going into my last throw and Valerie Allman, she was the only one who could pass me at that point, she just didn’t quite get it. I knew going into my last throw that I made it. I think the announcer even said it, too,” Card said on the USATF website following the competition.
Her first throw on Saturday was 197-feet-3 inches, which would be good enough to get her through to Rio.
Whitney Ashley had a toss of 204-feet-2 inches on her fifth throw to win the competition. Shelbi Vaughan of Texas A&M had a throw of 197-feet-9 inches on her second throw to solidify a spot in Rio as well.
Card’s other throws on Saturday were 185-feet-11 inches; 183-feet-6 inches; 192-feet-9 inches; 196-feet-3 inches and 191-feet-3 inches. She was the only competitor of the final six to not have a failed throw.
Ashley had three throws of over 200 feet while failing on her other three attempts. Vaughn had three good throws and three failed throws.
Fourth place finisher Liz Podominick came within inches of finishing ahead of Card, but her distance of 197-feet-one inch was two inches off the qualifying mark.
“It got really close there,” Card said. “I was frustrated with my technique, but I will go back to Madison and get ready.”
Card was the first thrower of the first flight of Friday’s preliminary round.
She needed just one throw to move into the finals on Saturday.
The first throw of competition went 199-feet-3 inches by Card. She passed on the next two throws.
Ashley had a best toss of 200-feet-eight inches; and Stephanie Brown Trafton had a toss of 199-feet-five inches to place second in the Friday preliminaries.
Card, who as a freshman qualified for the Olympic trials in the shot put, said having that prior experience in such a competition was a key component four years later.
“In 2012, I made it to the Trials in the shot, and even though I knew I had no shot, I came to get the experience,” Card said. “That was a good move – it really helped me today.”
She is still not finished at the U.S. Track and Field trials as she will compete Thursday in the shot put trials. The top three advance to the Olympics.
The Olympics takes place Aug. 5 to 19 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The track and field portion of the Olympics is slated to start Sunday, Aug. 14. All the action can be seen on the NBC family of networks.
Women’s discus qualifying rounds begin Aug. 15 with the finals slated for Aug. 16.
Shelly Wills coached Card in seventh grade and throughout her Carlinville High School days. The talent was there at an early age where she had to get her own throwing coach in Sean Canady. Dave Astrauskas is her college throwing coach.
Wills said Card’s dedication and ability to make adjustments is what has helped her get to this point.
“It was a privilege to work with her,” Wills said. “The dedication she has to get there is outstanding. When Kelsey sets her mind to it, she goes full force.”
Going into her freshman year, Card, who won state titles all four years of high school in discus and shot put, had the strength and the form to perform an elite level, Wills noted, but also said the intangibles was something to behold.
“Her ability to break down the movements of her body, that is something that not all athletes have,” Wills said. “Also understanding that sometimes you need to back up and fix a problem and she was never afraid to get back to the basics. Not all athletes are smart enough to realize that.”
During Card’s high school career, the joke around the girls discus/shot put competition was ‘OK, who’s going to get second today?’ Wills said when Card was scheduled to compete in any meet.
The town of Carlinville at the 2010 census had a population of approximately 5,912. It’s safe to say that those in the community will be rooting her on next month in Rio.
“We’re very excited for Kelsey,” said Carlinville Unit 1 School Superintendent Mike Kelly. “She’s an exceptional representation of the school district and the community. Kelsey, her older sister (Brittany) and brother (Daniel) are all tremendous representations of the community.
“But we would have been just as proud had she not qualified. But we’re glad she did and we wish her luck.”
Card has competed in the Pan Am Games, the world’s third largest competition, just last summer, so she has an idea of international competition, and called that “invaluable experience.” She has also been on two junior national teams
“Representing the U.S. – they say it’s the hardest team to make and I believe it’s true,” Card said of the Olympics. “You are dealing with a lot of really great athletes.”