Blugold thrower excels in her field

    Erica Oawster finds success in shot and discus


    This year, Erica Oawster’s effort in the ring earned her a place at nationals, where she finished fourth and returned home an All-American.

    Erica Oawster, a junior organizational communication student at UW-Eau Claire, has stepped into the thrower’s circle many times over the years, but one story comes to mind when she considers her track and field career.

    During last year’s Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) conference meet, Oawster was slated to compete against the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked discus throwers in the nation. Even though she faced adversity, Oawster said she remained calm. Her confidence won her the conference title in discus.

    “I think it was my second-to-last throw,” Oawster said. “I set a personal record, and that qualified me for Nationals. It was fun.”

    This is but one example of Oawster’s success stories. Recently, she’s achieved All-American status for her fourth-place shot put finish at the 2018 Indoor Nationals.

    Oawster hails from Lino Lakes, Minn., 20 minutes north of the Twin Cities. She was first introduced to track and field in sixth grade. Knee injuries prevented her from going out for softball, and someone suggested she try track and field instead.

    “I started throwing and I loved it,” Oawster said. “I’ve been throwing ever since.”

    She participated in the high school state meet her junior and senior year, taking sixth place both years. Oawster’s performance caught the eye of the Eau Claire track and field program, and the university awarded her the opportunity to continue her academic and athletic career at Eau Claire.

    “The program is one of the best in the nation, and the WIAC is probably the most competitive conference in the nation, too,” Oawster said. “I knew the coaching was super good, and we’ve had a lot of All-Americans and national champions. I knew it was a great place to get better.”

    Since then, Oawster’s skills have only improved. She’s placed at the WIAC conference meet in the discus every year she’s been competing. Last year, she won conference and went to nationals.

    She’s also placed in the WIAC conference for the shot put the past two years. This year, her effort in the ring earned her a place at nationals, where she finished fourth and returned home an All-American.

    “I set a personal record on throw two,” Oawster said. “It was a really fun experience to be at nationals.”

    The athlete’s success does not depend on luck — it is the product of hard work. Oawster said she is constantly working to mend bad throwing habits through repetitive drill work. She makes going to the weight room a part of her regular routine.

    Bradley Stoll, a fellow member of the throwing team, said Oawster has a natural knack for her sport.

    “She’s a really quick learner and she picks up on things; suggestions from the coach very quickly,” Stoll said.

    Track and field seasons are lengthy — competitions last from winter to spring, and some athletes begin to practice during the fall.

    With a long season comes injures, Oawster said. She’s battled with an injury every year of her college career. This season, she’s overcome injuries in her shoulder and hip.

    Oawster said she finds inspiration and guidance in her coaches, specifically Eau Claire throwing coach Paul Conlin, who Oawster said works closely with her to improve her skills.

    The All-American said she is pursuing a coaching minor and hopes to coach throws at a university, hoping to follow the footsteps of her mentor.

    Talent is not the only thing special about Oawster — she also portrays good character. Teammate Stoll said Oawster’s attitude has influenced her prosperity.

    “She always offers positive encouragement to others,” Stoll said.

    As for future athletic goals, Oawster’s plan is simple.

    “I would love to place again every year at nationals in discus and shot,” Oawster said.

    To stay motivated, Oawster said she looks toward her faith.

    “My biggest motivation is doing it all for God and giving Him the glory of it,” Oawster said.

    She said she always strives to be the best she can be.