Former Stockdale standout Collatz Sellens finishes seventh in discus at Olympic trials

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  • Lothar Collatz
    German mathematician

Jun. 23—Fresh off an impressive 2019 track and field season, Alex Collatz Sellens was looking forward to big things last year before events were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the former Stockdale and USC standout thrower's momentum took a hit the past 15 months, Collatz Sellens continued her training — albeit in her father's backyard — and reached her season goal with a seventh-place finish in the discus at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

"My goal going in was to be in the top eight, so I achieved my goal and was very happy about that," said Collatz Sellens, who was consistently throwing over 190 feet during the 2019 season, and finished the year ranked sixth in the country. "I just wanted to compete well. I know in most really big competitions there's a lot more nervousness and it feels different than any other competition I think, so for me it wasn't necessarily about a distance. I just wanted to compete well compared to everyone else."

The 28-year-old, who is a sixth-grade teacher at Columbia Elementary School, earned her spot in the final group, finishing seventh with a throw of 190 feet.

"The distance was not bad," Collatz Sellens said. "Usually throwing 190 (feet) and above is a good throw for me, so I guess it was a little on the low end for me, but again, it was more about competing. I just wanted to show up and do what I needed to do to get into the top eight."

Although she was resigned to the fact that qualifying for the Olympic games was a longshot, Collatz Sellens admitted that the thought still creeps into her mind.

"I guess in the back of my mind that was always a possibility, but that was never my motivation or a serious goal, I guess," Collatz Sellens said. "That's more like a dream that could happen, but it's okay if it doesn't. It's not my ultimate reason for doing it.

"TrackTown USA has this sign about how making the Olympic team in track and field is the hardest team to make because they only take three. And there's so much that goes into it because not only do you have to have an Olympic standard, which I don't have this year, but you also have to finish in the top three at the trials. So it's a hard team to make, and I knew that going in. I could have a really great day and still not make the team, and that's totally fine."

A three-time All-American and Pac-12 champion at USC, Collatz Sellens won the CIF State title in the discus at Stockdale. But after qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, she finished a disappointing 19th with a throw of 174 feet.

But Collatz Sellens said that this year's trials were different in many ways.

"It was great," Collatz Sellens said. "I remember going to the trials in 2016 and just being so happy to be there because it's just amazing. You're literally among the best athletes in the world. This year at the trials I came in with a little bit of a different mindset. I mean knowing that I deserve to be there and just wanting to do the very best that I could, even with all the nerves and intensity with the competition."

She was also able to appreciate the performances of some her fellow competitors, specifically Valarie Allman, who won the women's discus with a throw of 229-5, the second best mark in the world this year, and men's thrower Ryan Crouser, who broke the world record in the shot put with a 76-8 1/4 .

"Just being among those superstar athletes and feeling like, wow, this is awesome, and just being next to them in the competition and the fact I could finish in the top eight," said Collatz Sellens, who is going to take some time off before deciding her future in the sport. "It was an awesome and definitely a humbling experience, but also, I came in with a little more confidence that I had the ability to compete with the best. So that was great and made the experience even better."

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