Two weeks ago at the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Champaign, Ill., senior thrower Dani Parkos stepped up and claimed her second career Big Ten title.
With a personal best throw of 51 feet, 10 1/2 inches, Parkos not only won the shot put title but also moved into the ranks of the top 10 best shot put throwers in the nation.
Her mark was a vast improvement on her previous NCAA provisional qualifying throw of 49-1 3/4 at the Minnesota Last Chance meet. Parkos’ championship throw guaranteed her a chance to compete in the NCAA championships starting this week in Bloomington, Ind.
Parkos will be the lone Minnesota representative for the women’s team at the NCAAs.
“I knew right away at Big Tens that I would get to go,” Parkos said. “They usually take the top 18 or something like that, and I had moved into the top 10.”
Parkos also provisionally qualified in the discus several times this season, but her longest throw did not make the final cut. Despite this, the discus is still considered Parkos’ stronger of the two events.
Two years ago, Parkos won the Big Ten discus title and qualified for the NCAAs in the event. Parkos was one spot shy of qualifying for the finals but ended up finishing 12th. This season at Big Tens, she took third in the event with a toss of 156-7.
Parkos said she was a little disappointed she did not qualify for NCAAs this year in the discus but had felt stronger in the shot put all season.
“It would appear my chances in the discus would be better because I won the Big Ten title in 1995,” Parkos said. “But this indoor season I was on the bubble for NCAAs in the shot put, and I progressively got better in the event throughout the season.”
The shot put competition is set to begin at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Parkos said she feels she is throwing her best and peaking at the right time in her career.
“I can’t complain,” Parkos said. “As good as my throws were at conference, I can’t hold back. I just have to go with it and not question it.”
Even though she has not set any real expectations for the national meet, Parkos admits she would like to walk away as an All-American.
“The toughest part about NCAAs is getting there,” Parkos said. “But I would really like to make it into the finals and then finish in the top eight to become an All-American.”
Parkos realizes she took the chance of waiting until the final meet of the season to throw the NCAA qualifying mark but said winning the championship and recording her personal best made it worth the risk.
At the NCAAs, Parkos will put on her Gophers uniform one last time. She said making it this far in her senior season is the most rewarding way to finish her career at Minnesota.
“No matter what happens, I’ve had a great season and a great career at Minnesota,” Parkos said. “Competing at the NCAA championships is definitely the best way to go out.”