Apr. 25—CANTON — There are a lot of things St. Lawrence University junior Kathleen Merchant does well, aside from being able to throw a javelin far.
Merchant, who competes in the throwing events for SLU, was also once good enough at pole vaulting to make the New Hampshire state championship meet in high school.
The native of Plainfield, N.H., also is a musician and an honor student.
Merchant also happens to be a contender for an NCAA Division III national championship this season in the javelin, with a national-best mark of 151 feet-8 inches this season.
"She has the perfect combination," Saints coach Kate Howard said. "She's an athlete and having that athleticism really transfers well to throwing the javelin. Being an athlete, that's huge. She's strong and she's fast. That's a recipe for great things."
Merchant made the NCAA championship meet two years ago as a freshman and just missed qualifying for the final in the javelin, as well as being an All-American, by one spot.
"Oh my goodness," Merchant said recalling that experience. "I wasn't mad about it, but I was so close. This year I'm ranked first. I need to get there and I need to do well."
There is still a bit of time before Merchant can go after a national title. The outdoor national championship meet will be May 27-29 at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C.
"She's someone always looking for more," Howard said. "Outside of our traditional practice time she's looking to schedule individual sessions with coaches. She wants to keep working hard to get better. Kathleen has done a great job of seizing the opportunities we have had this season. We haven't been at any big invitationals but we tell the team we have an opportunity in front of us (each meet). She has the No. 1 mark in the country right now. In all likelihood she won't see a tremendous amount of competition in any of our meets until we get to the championship point of our season."
Merchant is a driven athlete so she doesn't need to have the best throwers in the country with her at her meets to be inspired to make a good throw.
"I like how (track and field) is a lot about the community," Merchant said. "If you know someone from another team they say hello. It's like friendly competition. It's the most motivating thing for me, how nice everyone is. Everything you do is for the team, but it also really reflects more on you."
Merchant also is not worried about offering tips for women competing against her in throwing events.
"We always ask if they want advice on a throw," Merchant said. "We help each other out. It's always nice to see other people do really well too."
Every spring athlete in Division III missed their season last year because of the COVID-19 shutdown.
But Merchant was going to miss her sophomore year anyway because she suffered an Achilles tendon injury during the indoor season.
"It was right after our first meet," Merchant said. "(During a drill) my ankle popped and I was on the ground. For me it was better that it was at a practice. There weren't too many people around. The only bad thing is I had to keep answering questions about how it happened because few people saw."
Merchant brought the same driven attitude to coming back from the injury as she does to improving as a thrower.
"I feel like I've been pretty positive about it," Merchant said. "(Rehab) moves really slow. I'm trying to accept that a bit. I was going to (physical training) when I was home and I was home in the fall so I could keep going. Slowly I have been allowed to jog and run a little bit more and do a lot of calf raises."
Merchant's early success at SLU has not surprised Howard.
"With the sport of track and field you know right away how good someone is and what's their potential," Howard said. "She was talented coming out of high school. We knew she'd be on the national scene right away. She was at that elite level.
"The sky is the limit for Kathleen. We were really happy to see her come out (this spring) and be right where she left off as a (freshman). She's come back and been even stronger. She's in a great place going forward. She's got a great future ahead of her. We are really proud she's wearing the scarlet and brown. She does a great job representing our program at the smaller-level meets."