BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College finishes up its look back at the 2016-17 year Friday with the number one story in the Top 10 Stories of the Year countdown – junior Mary Kate Duncan winning the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship in the javelin.
Duncan won the title with a personal best of 46.26 meters (151-9) on May 25, the opening day of the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship meet hosted by The University of Mount Union and the City of Cleveland at the SPIRE Institute. Duncan's toss also set the stadium record at the SPIRE Institute.
"Winning the national championship was a reflection on the hard work that goes into javelin training not only for the athlete but also for the coaches who have to wait and watch us compete," Duncan said. "For javelin, we start training the first week of school in the fall and only get to compete in a few meets in the spring. It is an event that requires a lot of patience and determination in order to keep focus. Winning nationals was a goal I had set for myself when the season ended last year. It showed me that I am a good javelin thrower, but believing in yourself is the most important key when competing. That has also transferred over into other aspects of my life, which has allowed me to be more confident in the work I do. I am grateful to have brought this accolade to Moravian as a sign of the support I have received from coaches, teammates, friends, and family. It is an honor to say that I am a national champion and I will always remember the experience I had."
Duncan became Moravian's 21st NCAA Division III Individual National Champion and the 20th from the track & field program. She is also the third women's javelin champion for the Greyhounds, joining former Hound and Danish Olympian Christina Scherwin, who won the title in 2002 and 2003, the latter with a meet record toss of 55.34 meters (181-6) that still stands.
"Mary Kate's performance in Ohio was one of the most memorable moments in my time here at Moravian," noted Director of Men's and Women's Cross Country and Track & Field Jesse Baumann, who finished his sixth year in 2016-17. "I've said before that her drive and focus are second-to-none, and simply put she's the type of person you want to root for. Going into the meet we knew she had a great shot at earning All-American honors, and possibly winning if things went well. In the fifth round, a few other athletes were leap frogging her with some great throws, and a high finish was looking in doubt. However, Mary Kate stepped up and showed incredible moxie to toss a lifetime best that ultimately won the meet. Once the javelin left her hand, she knew it was a huge throw, as did the rest of us and it was a moment her teammates, the coaches, her family, and the alums who were present won't forget.
"There have been 11 track & field athletes before Mary Kate who have won NCAA titles for Moravian," Baumann continued. "That list includes literally some of the best athletes in Division III history like Ozzie Brown, Eric Woodruff, Anna Heim, Abby Schaffer, and even Olympian, Christina Scherwin. Mary Kate gets to add her name to that distinguished list, something she has earned and should be extremely proud of."
Duncan began the meet in the second flight of 11 competitors and had an opening toss of 38.67 meters (126-10) before she moved into second place on her next throw with a toss of 43.03 meters (141-2). Duncan finished the preliminaries with a toss of 40.81 meters (133-10) and remained second of the nine competitors to reach the finals out of the 22 student-athletes to begin the meet.
She began the next set of three throws with a distance of 42.84 meters (140-6). By the time Duncan came up for her fifth throw, she had slipped to fifth place before unleashing her PR mark of 46.26 meters and leaping into first place.
"When I throw the javelin, I never want to overthink what I have to do because then I will put too much focus on certain aspects rather than trusting what I already do best," explained Duncan. "I was gifted with being able to naturally throw the javelin well, so during competition Coach Bob Luciano always tells me to run fast, keep my hand up, and most importantly have fun. Throughout each of my throws I focused on his words and in the beginning I was not throwing my best, but knew if I continued to focus on these aspects I would throw far. In the fifth round all of the other throwers started to throw better and I was bumped down to fifth place. I got on the runway and knew this was the time to really focus and throw far. After I released the javelin I saw the flight was good and I heard Coach Bob screaming so I knew it must have been a good throw. Then 46 meters came up on the screen and I could not believe I had just jumped from 5th to 1st place. My coach always tells me you have to believe you can throw far and I think when all the other girls started to throw far I knew I could too."
As she came into her final throw, Duncan was still first and finished with a toss of 44.23 meters (145-1). She needed to wait through just one more throw, and then Duncan had the national title with the tenth best throw in school history with Scherwin holding the top nine spots.
"After my final throw I went over and stood with Coach Bob on the sidelines. I was confident that my 46 meters would hold up to the rest of the competition but told him I didn't want to watch the last girl throw because I was nervous she would beat me," Duncan stated. "I was thinking a few things, first I was thinking wow is this actually real, it was hard to believe at first that I was in first and it seemed like a dream. Second, I was thinking of how I have progressed as a thrower since freshman year making nationals and coming in last place to now being in first place in my junior year. Lastly, I was thinking of how grateful I was to have come to Moravian and have met many people who have helped me reach this point in my javelin career."
Duncan has a chance to match Scherwin as a two-time national champion in the javelin as she heads into 2018 season next spring.
"I tend to not think of things in advance. I like to look at things in small pieces that will eventually lead up to a larger picture," Duncan noted. "I know I will trust the plan Coach Bob has for me and put the effort into little things that will make me a better thrower. At nationals whatever ends up happening will happen, but I know I will have put in the effort needed to get there and most importantly will have enjoyed the process along the way."
Moravian's 2017-18 athletic campaign begins on Thursday, August 31 when the football team travels to King's College for a non-conference game kicking off at 7:00 p.m., one of 11 games involving NCAA Division III schools to start the season.