NewsAdelaide Aquilla

Adelaide Aquilla Bet On Herself, And Ohio State Helped Her Make The Big Leap To The Olympics

by Santosh Venkataraman

Adelaide Aquilla competes in the women's shot put finals at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials on June 24, 2021 in Eugene, Ore.

 

Adelaide Aquilla is headed back to the scene of some of her greatest triumphs.
The former walk-on turned U.S. Olympic shot putter is now a senior at Ohio State, and this week she’ll wrap up her collegiate career by attempting to defend her NCAA title at the championship meet in Eugene, Oregon. 
It’s the latest chapter in what’s been a remarkable journey for the 23-year-old, even if at times it still feels surreal.
“It’s definitely a crazy experience, even just going back thinking about it right now,” said Aquilla, who recently graduated with degrees in communications and hospitality management. “It still feels so surreal. But I would honestly just say that it was a testament to my hard work, trusting the process and ultimately realizing what I’m capable of.”
It is well documented that Aquilla was not considered a major prospect out of Magnificat High School in Rocky River, Ohio. And although she had offers from smaller schools, the allure of suiting up for Ohio State proved to be too great to pass up.
Even if it came without a scholarship.
“I had a couple of other offers from some smaller D1 schools, but ultimately I saw better potential at Ohio State to compete against the best in the country at the time,” Aquilla said. “As a kid in Ohio, it’s Ohio State football, Ohio State sports, so to prove to my family and everyone I knew that I go to Ohio State and I’m on the track team, that was just an awesome feeling and an awesome experience.”
Aquilla took advantage of the resources Ohio State offered to develop into a conference champion and then, this past June in Eugene, an NCAA outdoor champion. She then made the leap to international competition by finishing third at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials a few weeks later, also in Eugene, to reach her first Olympic Games.
“I definitely thought that throughout the season I had enough high-level training with high competition and high stakes that I could make the (Olympic) team, so it was just a matter of putting it all together at that time,” she said.

Adelaide Aquilla prepares to compete in the women's shot put qualification round at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

The high-level training and competition come with being a part of the strong Ohio State program, she said. Title IX, the landmark gender equality legislation that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, has also played a key role in her development, and she credits Ohio State with creating a supportive environment in which female athletes can thrive.
The Buckeyes have a woman as the head coach of track and field for both men and women in Karen Dennis. In addition, Aquilla’s former throws coach with Ohio State was Ashley Kovacs, a former NCAA All-American shot putter now coaching at Vanderbilt. Kovacs’ husband is Joe Kovacs, a two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the shot put.
“They have so many great opportunities, and to have our head coach be a woman is just an amazing experience and it shows just how far we’ve come as a country and how far we can continue to improve,” said Aquilla, who finished 20th in her Olympic debut in Tokyo last year.
With world-class athletes, coaches and performance specialists, there is a great sense of equality within the Buckeyes program, Aquilla said. That lends itself to friendly competition between the men and women.
“It’s like a great little push during practice,” Aquilla said. “One of the guys that I have a current little bet (with) going on: Who’s going to throw 20 meters first? If I lose, I have to dye part of my hair, and if he loses, I get to braid his hair for one of the meets.
“So it’s a lot of little fun things going on. The resources are very equal, and it’s a great experience to be here and compete with the highest-level athletes.”
It’s not hard for Aquilla to envision her career turning out differently had she not gone to Ohio State. In addition to the facilities, coaching and top-level competition, she cited the athletic department’s resources that extend beyond the competition field, such as mental health services.
“If I had gone to these smaller schools, obviously the level wouldn’t have been as high and it would have been more difficult to make this jump,” she said.  
Already holding school and Big Ten records, Aquilla set a facility record with a throw of 19.09 meters in last week’s NCAA Regional meet at Indiana University, more than one meter further than anyone else. That cemented her ticket to the NCAA championships at the University of Oregon for one last time.
“We head to Eugene on Sunday June 5th so I’m very excited to get out to Oregon, test out the ring and see the beautiful Hayward Field once more, train for world trials and then hopefully make the world team,” Aquilla said. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. This is my last outdoors, so I’m looking to make the most of it and have fun with this great competition at NCAAs.”


Santosh Venkataraman is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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