FINDLAY — With the price of oil going up, it’s only fitting that the stock of an Oiler is rising as well.
For University of Findlay track and field thrower and former Wheelersburg High School standout Paige Emnett, she is now going national —as in this weekend’s NCAA Division II indoor National Championships, which are set for Friday and Saturday at the Robert W. Plaster Center in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Emnett, actually, was one of five female Oilers advancing to the national competition —as she will compete in the women’s shot put, presently seeded 14th out of 16 qualifiers.
Emnett, naturally, is excited about her first opportunity of heading to the nation’s heartland —and representing the Oilers on the national stage.
“I’m super excited to be able to travel with the team and compete with the best athletes in the nation. It’s an honor to make it to this point in the season, and it’s an honor that I won’t take lightly. I know my community of support will be rooting me on this weekend. I will take their support and let it fuel my fire for the meet,” said Emnett, in response to interview questions via social media. “The reason I compete is to use the talents God has given me, to make my family proud, and to give young athletes with a dream a story to look up to. As a young athlete, I had no intentions on competing at the collegiate level. Now I am traveling to Kansas for the national meet.”
Indeed, Emnett WILL be in Kansas anymore —already adding accolades on to her early Oiler, and successful, collegiate career.
As a freshman for eligibility purposes, she was voted the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year during the 2021 outdoor season —and tabbed the GMAC Freshman of the Meet at last May’s outdoor conference championship.
She is already a first-team all-GMAC selection during the indoor AND outdoor seasons, captured the conference championship in the weight throw during the indoor campaign, and claimed conference titles in the discus and hammer throws during the outdoor season last spring.
She is a junior academically at Findlay, and a sophomore in athletic eligibility, thanks to the coronavirus threat canceling the outdoor season of 2020.
Emnett admitted her college career “has been chaotic until this point”, but plans to make the most of this national meet —and her final two years of indoor eligibility.
“My outdoor season of my freshman year (2020) was canceled because of COVID. We were sent home in March and didn’t return to campus until August. The number of athletes were limited and we didn’t have any fans the entirety of my sophomore year (2020-2021). Last year was a weird season. We competed, but it just didn’t feel right. We were in and out of quarantine, trying to follow the COVID protocols, and trying to compete well. A lot of things have gone back to normal this year, which has been a huge blessing,” she said. “Athletically, I have competed well every year and I have continued to improve my marks, but this didn’t come without determination and perseverance. College athletics require hard work, sacrifices and mental strength. I am excited to see what I can do at nationals and in my next two years.”
As for how she qualified for nationals, it wasn’t competing in district and regional meets like at Wheelersburg —and placing in the top four for state meet appearances.
Instead, as she explained, “you have to hit a provisional mark any time during the indoor season” —but that’s not all.
“The provisional mark this year was 13.70 meters, which I surpassed in my first meet in December. You do not qualify just because you hit the provisional mark. From here, the committee decides how many athletes they are going to take for the championship. Then the committee looks at the provisional marks from all events and selects how many athletes will compete in each event,” she said.
This year, it was 16 ladies qualifying for the shot put, as Emnett is ranked 14th —thanks to her farthest throw of 14.67 meters in the GMAC meet.
It’s an indoor and outdoor personal record for Emnett —which translated to feet is 48 and one inch, and is used with an 8.8-pound shot put —the same shot weight with both college and high school.
The top-seeded thrower’s distance is that of Zada Swoopes of West Texas A&M, with an “outstanding” toss of 17.19 meters.
Emnett said that although she is not one of the favorites for the shot put national championship, she is throwing with no pressure —playing with house money.
“The top distance going into the meet is 17.19 meters. The next-best is 16.24 meters followed by several 15-meter throws. These are great marks for an indoor season. I think sports are really start to bounce back after COVID. Going into nationals, I just want to compete well and have fun. Some of the other athletes have a lot of pressure going into the meet, because they are seniors or they are seeded well, but I don’t have that same pressure,” she said. “I am going to compete, give my all, and trust my training. I would like to set a new PR for myself and see how that lands me in the rankings.”
And, this would not be the first time Emnett exceeds expectations.
While at Wheelersburg, she was a two-time OHSAA state meet qualifier for both the Division III shot and disc — as her 139-foot discus throw captured the 2019 state title.
She almost made it a sweep of the throws, recording a best toss of 43-feet, two and one-half inches in the shot put —and was runner-up to champion Lauren Christian of Covington (44-7 1/2).
A year earlier as a junior, Emnett placed sixth in the state shot at 40-feet and two inches and earned all-Ohio honors —and was 16th out of 16 qualifiers in the discus with a best throw of 105-and-a-half feet.
Now, on the national level, her stock is rising even more.
“I want to give other young athletes the hope and inspiration to work hard, follow their dreams and to succeed. Athletics are about so much more than qualifying for nationals or winning a title. Athletics empower athletes to make an impact and to make a difference,” she said. “That’s why I do it. I’m not competing to show off my talents, I am competing to inspire others and to make my community proud.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved