Accolades evaded Western Washington University senior track and field thrower Lindsay Wells before she became a Viking and distinguished herself as the top hammer thrower in program history.
In fact, at Nathan Hale High School Wells was hardly recognized as a track and field athlete. That's because in Washington state, the hammer isn't a sanctioned high school sport.
Still, it didn't stop Wells from pursuing a collegiate career in an event she said she fell in love with. And now, her awards are coming in bunches.
Three times in the last month and a half Wells has received Great Northwest Athletic Conference Athlete of the Week honors for setting new personal and school records.
Wells' latest throw of 182 feet, 4 inches during the 33rd Annual Ralph Vernacchia Meet on Saturday, April 26, added 3 feet to her previous school record and NCAA Division II provisional qualifying mark. The distance stands as the second best in GNAC history.
"It was my goal to get 180 by the end of the season," Wells said in a phone interview. "When I broke 180 at a home meet, that was just icing on the cake, and now I'm hoping to go farther. Now my goal is 190."
A throw of only 2 feet, 4 inches inches would establish her as the top athlete to ever throw the hammer in the GNAC, and what Wells has done is even more impressive given how she's elevated herself to such a high level.
Wells was a devout basketball player growing up and decided to add a spring sport to her high school athletic career. With her background on the hardcourt, she figured the high jump would be a natural fit.
One day after practice she saw teammates throwing the hammer, tried it herself, left jumps and instantly gravitated to the event many regard as one of the most dangerous and technical events in track and field.
"I just tried it and fell in love with it," Wells said. "It's a random sport. It is technically illegal to throw in high school, but my high school coach would let me throw after hours. It always looked fun, and I just tried it and it was one of the most fun things I have ever done."
The hammer itself, in women's competition, is an 8.82-pound ball connected to a 3-foot, 11-inch wire. The athlete stands in a circle and swings the hammer around several times before releasing it after building up maximum velocity.
Western track and field coach PeeWee Halsell said newcomers often need a year of training before they even step in the circle and throw.
Fortunately, Wells came to Halsell with an already advanced hammer throwing background thanks to some YouTube videos, the help of her dad, Max Wells, and a former University of Washington thrower.
Since the hammer isn't taught at the high school track and field level, Wells found herself struggling for resources that could help her become a stronger thrower.
"My dad taught himself to coach the hammer through YouTube videos," Wells said. "That was really awesome. In high school you go through that phase where you don't get along with you parents, and we kind of bonded over it. I still go down to Seattle and train with him every other weekend."
The only competition available to Wells was a meet in Centralia in which she attended, but all the work she did before high school set the table for the kind of standout thrower she has become.
"She has been very solid from the beginning," Halsell said in a phone interview. "Coming to us, she was better than anything we had. We knew she had something going, and she was able to develop into what she is doing now. I'm not sure, but I think she broke the school record every year that she has been here."
Wells already has won two GNAC titles each of the past two years and she is going for a third straight during the GNAC Championships on Friday-Saturday, May 9-10, in Monmouth, Ore.
Even with all her success, she hasn't yet thrown at nationals. Halsell said athletes throughout nation with top-20 throws receive invites, and Wells' 182-4 this season ranks 11th.
Early success caused Wells to "go through the motions" her sophomore and junior year, but she said she's re-dedicated herself for her final season and is ready to go to nationals and hopefully break the top eight.
"I would like to be a three-time champ," said Wells of winning another GNAC title. "That has been my goal since after my freshman year. It's extremely important (to get to nationals). I would want nothing more than that this spring."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
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