Adelaide Aquilla competed in the 2020 Olympics, visited the White House, threw out the first pitch at a Cleveland Guardians game and broke Ohio State University and Big Ten shot put records.
Her first attempt on June 9 at the NCAA Division I Outdoor National Championships at the University of Oregon broke the previous collegiate record by nearly a foot, and is currently the fourth-farthest throw on earth in 2022.
And in the late-evening hours in Eugene, she and a group of teammates could be found celebrating in style – inside a local Denny’s.
It was in the humble confines of the always-open home of the Grand Slam breakfast that Aquilla, a fifth-year Buckeyes senior, three-time All-American and Magnificat High School alum, could sip on a much-deserved milkshake and start to reflect on a whirlwind year. Nationals served as the final outdoor meet of her storied college career.
“It’s definitely really hard to wrap my head around,” said Aquilla, A Westlake native who joined the Buckeyes as a preferred walk-on in 2017. “It shows all of my hard work paying off throughout my career here. It’s exciting to see it pay off, but it’s very surreal still.”
Her goal at nationals was to start strong while defending her 2021 title, but even she did a bit of a double-take after her first throw, which traveled an NCAA-record 64 feet, 5 ¼ inches and drew a noticeable roar from surrounding spectators. Arizona State’s Maggie Ewen previously owned the record of 63-10 ¼, set in 2018.
Aquilla’s top four throws that day were the longest of any competitor in the event, and three feet farther than eventual runner-up Jorinde Van Klinken of Arizona State (60-11 ½).
“It was a little difficult to tell how far it was, and when I let it go it felt super, super easy,” Aquilla said of her record-breaking heave. “I didn’t expect it to be that far. I was expecting it to be more like (62 feet) or something. I saw that it was well over (60 feet), but I couldn’t tell how far. I was ecstatic, but I had to kind of keep it on the lowkey until the competition ended just so I could refocus and keep competing.”
The Buckeyes’ Female Field Athlete of the Year isn’t quite done yet, but has already cemented her place as one of the top athletes in the program’s history. Her run to the U.S. Olympic team started with a clean sweep of indoor and outdoor Big Ten and NCAA titles in 2021, where she also set school and conference records in both the shot put and discus throw.
On May 8, the double-major graduated with a bachelor of arts in communications and a bachelor of science in hospitality management. She’ll continue her education in the fall, pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and leadership, in hopes of one day working for a non-profit.
“One of my big goals is to still be involved in the track and field community,” she said. “Whether it be on the Olympic planning team or a meet planning team. Public administration and leaning towards a non-profit would lend a lot to that.”
An eligibility extension given to all athletes by the NCAA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 will allow Aquilla to throw for one more indoor season at OSU, of which she plans to take full advantage. Back in March, she finished second to none other than Van Klinken for the indoor national title.
Aquilla likes to write out a list of goals prior to each season, and said her 2022-23 list will be pretty short for a change. She wants to reclaim the indoor title and set a new record while doing it. Ole Miss product Raven Saunders is the current record-holder, reaching 64-2 ¼ in 2017.
“I told my coach at the beginning of the year that if I break the record and all that stuff, I’m probably not going to come back,” she said. “But since I didn’t, I want to come back and end on a high note.”
Along with one more indoor college season, Aquilla has big meets on her radar as she ramps up her efforts to make Team USA ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Today, she’ll begin that journey when she heads back to Oregon for world team tryouts. The top three athletes in each event qualify for the world championships, which will also take place in Eugene from July 15-24.
Along the way, she also wants to hit a personal distance mark of 65-6 (20 meters) that’s been in the back of her mind for some time.
“In high school, my best throw was 45 feet, so that would really just show my improvement and show that I’ve grown 20 feet since high school,” Aquilla said. “I think that would be an awesome accomplishment. Beyond that, 20 meters solidifies me as one of the top throwers in the world.”
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