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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EWU’s Luckenbach ranks in national top 10 in wild event

Eastern Washington University senior Nicole Luckenbach is approaching the 200-foot mark in the women’s hammer throw. EWU photo (EWU photo)
Eastern Washington University senior Nicole Luckenbach is approaching the 200-foot mark in the women’s hammer throw. EWU photo (EWU photo)

By now, Nicole Luckenbach is used to her event being the shirttail relative of track and field.

She throws the hammer, which is often loud, fast, wild and thought to be dangerous – in her case, not quite 9 pounds of iron at the end of a 4-foot wire propelled by a tight spin, centrifugal force and often a guttural roar. In other words, too risky for mass consumption.

“Yeah, more often than not it’s almost always held at a separate facility or some part of the facility you can’t see, some little corner – or even on a separate day,” the Eastern Washington University senior said. “If nothing else, it’s always the first event of the day – and when it’s over they start the rest of the track meet.

“It doesn’t bother me that much, I guess, but it would be nice if it weren’t. Although sometimes the big crowds make me nervous.”

She might want to get used to them. With throws of 193 feet and 199-2 on successive days last weekend, Luckenbach moved into the top 10 of this spring’s collegiate list – which makes her likely, though not a lock, to be spending the second weekend of June at the NCAA championships in Eugene.

Not a bad destination for someone who joined the Eastern team as a walk-on five years ago, with only a vague notion of the event that consumes her now.

Luckenbach was a pretty fair shot-discus competitor at Snohomish High School – she threw 131 feet in the latter event as a junior. But pneumonia and bronchitis derailed her senior year when she failed to place at state, and a lot of college interest in her disappeared. She thought the discus would be her ticket at EWU; coach Marcia Mecklenburg had other designs.

“I knew I was going to try it – I didn’t know it was going to be ‘my event,’ ” Luckenbach said. “It’s harder, but I liked it – I think I liked it better right away. I guess I’m somewhat of a natural to a degree and I did pretty well right off the start, but I’m still learning. I still have lots of bad throws and I’m not very consistent.”

She’s getting there – and it started indoors with the 20-pound weight. Luckenbach took the school record in that event to 65-9 – a 4-foot improvement and a meet record – and went on to place 14th at the NCAA meet. Her throws last weekend at the Pelluer and WAR III meets gave her the stadium records at Woodward Field and Spokane Falls, and she was hoping to test herself this weekend against the invitational field at Mt. SAC in California – only to learn the other day that she hadn’t been accepted into it.

So she’ll likely have to wait until regionals and nationals to gauge how far she’s come – and how far she can go.

Luckenbach will move back home to student teach next fall and complete her education degree, but she’d like to continue throwing with her eye on the Olympic Trials in 2012 – the qualifying standard for which is 208 feet.

“I can’t wait to break 200 feet,” she said, “and once I get there, hopefully there will be no looking back and I’ll stay up there.”

Bell lap

The area’s three major Division I programs will send most of their athletes to California this weekend to compete at Mt. SAC and the Long Beach Invitational. Whitworth and Community Colleges of Spokane will be in action at the Spike Arlt Invitational in Ellensburg. … Two years after finishing eighth in the NCAAs, Washington State’s Anna Layman is a player again in the 800-meter picture. Her 2:05.70 clocking last week in Texas puts her third on the national list. … Future book: Seasonal leaders at WSU in 11 events are freshmen; six more are sophomores. … It may not translate into a national championship, but Whitworth’s men have athletes ranked in the NCAA Division III top 10 in seven events, topped by national 800 leader Emmanuel Bofa (1:48.69). Ron Whitley, a senior via CCS, is ranked in the discus and hammer.

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