Courtesy of Colorado State Athletics

EUGENE, Ore.  – The national championships are an ideal setting to be at your best. Just ask Gabi Morris.

The longest-tenured thrower in the stable of Colorado State coach Brian Bedard, the Fort Collins native closed out her first set of three throws Thursday at Hayward Field with a personal-best shot put of 61-2.75, an effort which put her in second place at the time, a standing she would hold during the final round.

The effort produced a feeling of unexpected euphoria.

In recent weeks at practice, she’s felt a big throw on the horizon. It had her feeling good heading to nationals, but when she arrived, she caught a bug. Since the team landed, she’d slept in and missed some workouts, trying to shake the cough, the stuffy nose and the aches and pains she was feeling.

The build-up – she’d elevated her personal record in each of the past four meets — felt as if there would be a letdown, which may have helped in the end.

“I was happy. I had a couple in practice I knew were big, and I don’t think I’ve hit the biggest mark yet,” she said. “I’ve been feeling like crap the past couple of days, low energy, so I was not expecting a lot. I have some technical cues I’ve been working on in practice that have gone really well, and I’ve slowly improved my PR in meets, but I’ve still been waiting on my big-big throw.

“To hit such a big mark and do so well to finish in the top two feeling like this, I was very, very happy. I think what you saw was, ‘oh, thank goodness, not everything came crumbling down since I got sick.'”

The Rams had a pair of first-team All-American’s in the event, as Mya Lesnar, the NCAA Indoor champion, placed fifth, her best throw landing at 57-11.75. It came on her second attempt of the day. They stood in the top five the entire time. After Morris’ first two throws, Lesnar would pass her, just not on the third. Nobody else did either, with the exception of the eventual champion.

Oregon’s Jaida Ross won the event from start to emphatic finish, her first throw of the event good enough for the title. Her final toss was a show-stopping 64-2.5, just off the meet record.

For Lesnar, who entered ranked second in the country, it was not her best showing, but both Morris and Bedard noted it shows just how talented she is, to still finish in the top five while struggling with some aspects of the event.

“‘She’s really disappointed. I’m disappointed for her,” Bedard said. “there were a few technical issues in her throw that I identified late in the season, and we haven’t gotten them worked out yet, so I’m taking ownership of that. We need to do a better job together to get those things fixed. She’s started to work it out in training. I guarantee you she’ll be determined to get those things worked out.”

The two now stand as the only Rams to surpass 61-0 in the event, with Lesnar’s throw of 62-7.25 standing as the school record, Morris’ NCAA toss ranking second. Both are slated to compete at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials in the event.

Colorado State was busy on the first day of competition for the Colorado State as Sarah Carter and Yasmin Austridge hit the track for distance races during the day. Austridge competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals, with the Mountain West champion placing 23rd overall in a time of 10:21.94 to finish her career as an honorable mention All-American.

Carter competed in the 10,000 later in the evening, earning second-team All-American honors with her 16th-place showing in 24:08.75 in her final collegiate race. A two-time NCAA Indoor Champion in 2023 (3,000 and 5,000), she finishes with three All-America showings for the Rams in track, one of them first-team honors.

Carter finished running right after the shot put competition had finished, and Morris was still feeling the overwhelming joy of what she’d pulled off. It wasn’t just this week which has put hurdles in front of her, but her entire career, a host of injuries getting in the way of her progression. Through each one of the apparent setbacks, Bedard felt she came out the other end stronger – especially mentally – which is what he felt he witnessed on Thursday evening.

“II had another coach here ask me, ‘did  you see that coming?’ She’s been on quite a roll since our last home meet and really settled in on some technical cues that are working and a mindset which is working for her, so she had a lifetime best there. She goes to conference and was locked in there, then at NCAA first round and the same thing at nationals,” Bedard said. “I told her, keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working.

“It has not been an easy journey for her. One, putting up with me for so many years, but going through injuries issues and major surgery on the left knee. It’s been a long process, but it’s a testament to her and her stubbornness, really. She’s worked through that stuff and never given up.”

Under the spotlight, Morris was thrilled it all came together.

“It was not a bad place to do it at all,” she said. “I’m very excited for discus. I’ve had some back issues, but it’s been going better lately. If I can do this in shot put while sick, hopefully I’ll feel better by Saturday.

“Honestly, this helped with the nerves. It’s not like I didn’t do everything I could to be healthy and be here. I was like, whatever happens, happens, so it put me in a good mindset. To throw well feeling like crap, I’ll take it for sure.”

Especially on the season’s biggest stage.

Colorado State will close out the NCAA Championships on Saturday as Morris and Michaela Hawkins compete in the discus.