AMES, Iowa – All-American Iowa State shot-putter Christina Hillman, has been on a steady upward journey to rank among the elite of collegiate throwers. The sophomore’s trek to success didn’t begin in Ames. It began more than 1,000 miles to the east in Dover, Del., where Hillman prepped at St. Thomas More High School.
Hillman was a seven-time Delaware prep champion competing in the shot put and discus. When ISU throws coach Grant Wall signed her to compete at Iowa State, Hillman began work to enhance her high school throwing before coming to Ames.
“When I signed her, I let her know about a high school throws coach that’s pretty good about an hour away from her house in Delaware,” Wall said. “She made the commitment to go up and really work on her technique with him and that helped her a ton.”
During her senior year, Hillman went from being a 40-foot thrower to throwing 50-00 at the 2011 Penn Relays, where she was the shot put champion. Hillman also finished second at the 2011 New Balance Outdoor National Championships.
In her first year as a Cyclone in 2012, Hillman would again continue to improve, as she threw a personal-best mark of 53-11.25 at the Holiday Preview, good for the shot put title.
Hillman again continued to grow in 2013, as her indoor season was record-setting. At the Big 12 indoor meet in February, she broke the school record with a throw of 57-09.50.
“I think Christina even surprised herself a little bit with her quick improvement,” Wall said. “It wasn’t unexpected, but it just happened so quickly.”
Hillman stepped up her game at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March. Her school record throw of 58-00.50, was good for All-America honors and a runner-up finish to four-time All-American and two-time indoor NCAA champion Tia Brooks of Oklahoma.
“Her progression has been amazing to say the least,” Wall said. “The results speak for themselves and it’s pretty impressive what she’s been able to do.”
Hillman was as surprised as anyone with the leaps and bounds she made indoors.
“I honestly didn’t expect to improve that much this year,” Hillman said. “Last year I threw a personal-best early in the year, but didn’t really progress much after that. All of sudden this year in the first meet I threw 56-11. That throw gave me motivation and the confidence that ‘hey, I actually have a chance for this.’”
Wall and Hillman both credited the upperclassman throwers on the team as a focal point in the success that Hillman has had.
“We have a ton of great leadership from some of our upperclassman,” Hillman said. “Danielle (Frere), Hayli (Bozarth), Laishema (Hampton) and all the girl throwers are fantastic and really pave the way by showing how dedicated they are. You can learn a lot about resilience just by watching them in practice and in meets and that’s not really something you can teach.”
Already an All-American during the indoor season, Hillman will look to duplicate those honors and qualify for the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend at the West Regional in Austin, Texas. She will compete Saturday at 6 p.m.
“At regionals I’m going to have fun, love what I do, go out there and try to throw my best,” Hillman said. “If I’m fortunate enough to earn a spot at nationals, my goal is to throw a personal-best and earn All-America honors.”
Wall emphasized the importance in managing Hillman’s quick rise to success.
“We don’t want to set our goals too low, but we don’t want to have them too high either,” Wall said. “Our only goal at regionals is to finish in the top-12 and make the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA meet we just want to be consistent and technically sound with our throws; the distances will come.”
Hillman heads into the West Regional ranked fourth among West Regional qualifiers at 57-01, a personal-best outdoor throw that earned her another school-record and second-place at the Mt. SAC Relays.