Olympic Trials Women’s Shot — Jessica Ramsey Wins Battle Of PRs

Jessica Ramsey needed a new lifetime best to win her first national title. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

MASKS WEREN’T REQUIRED, but the only one in use did little to conceal the identity of Raven Saunders. She actually wore two — a “Joker” mask in qualifying before switching to one matching her nickname of “The Hulk” for the final.

Saunders, 25, earned a return trip to the Olympics and will be joined by former training partner Jessica Ramsey and NCAA champ Adelaide Aquilla, who trains alongside men’s team member Joe Kovacs.

It was clear at least two new faces would be on the U.S. team as reigning Olympic gold medalist Michelle Carter scratched after having a benign tumor removed from her ankle and fellow Rio team member Felisha Johnson (a 63-footer this year) no-marked in qualifying.

The qualifying round — held on the same day as the final in this event for the first time since ’84 — started at noon under a hot sun with Saunders (62-10½/19.16) and Ramsey (61-9/18.82) notching outdoor seasonal bests at almost the same time in side-by-side rings on initial efforts. Six exceeded 60ft (twice as many as the former Trials best), but the non-advancers included Rachel Fatherly, who had shocked two weeks ago with a PR 63-0 (19.20).

Ramsey led after the final’s first round began, heaving an outdoor PR 63-9¾ (19.45). Aquilla was next at 62-2¼ (18.95), the second-longest of the 22-year-old’s career. Maggie Ewen bumped Chase Ealey (60-4/18.39) off a team position in round 2 at 62-1 (18.92).

After sub-60 efforts in the first two rounds Saunders entered the picture in perfect Hulk-style in the third, adding more than a foot to Carter’s Meet Record with a PR 65-6 (19.96) to become No. 4 all-time U.S. and move Ewen down to 4th in the standings.

Saunders’ lead didn’t last long as Ramsey’s mindset changed: “When she did it, I was like, ‘OK, let’s go.’”

The two once trained together under John Smith, the Ole Miss throwing coach (husband of 4-time Olympian Connie Price-Smith) when Saunders was a CR-setting thrower for the Rebels. Smith remains Ramsey’s coach.

“We’re friends and then we’re competitors,” Ramsey explained.

Ramsey, a 29-year-old 2014 Western Kentucky grad, said she had to “zone in” as she answered with a behemoth mark of her own — 66-¼ (20.12) to become the fourth American over 66ft (and 20m). Her PR before the day started was more than 2 feet shorter.

While Ramsey and Saunders looked solid for two of the Tokyo berths, more than a meter back was Aquilla hanging on to a lead of an inch and a quarter over Ewen, who like 5th-place Ealey owned a PR over 64ft, as the final three rounds began. No one improved, sealing Aquilla’s place on the team.

WOMEN’S SHOT RESULTS

(June 24)

1. Jessica Ramsey (adi) 66-¼ (20.12) PR (4, 7 A)

(63-9¾ out PR, 62-6, 62-9¼, 66-¼, f, f) (19.45, 19.05, 19.13, 20.12, f, f);

2. Raven Saunders (Nik) 65-6 (19.96) PR (5, 11 A)

(59-2¾, 59-10¼, 65-6 [4, 10 A], 64-3¼, 62-¼, 61-11¾) (18.05, 18.24, 19.96, 19.59, 18.90, 18.89);

3. Adelaide Aquilla (OhSt) 62-2¼ (18.95)

(62-2¼, 56-10¾, 56-1¾, 59-6¾, f, f) (18.95, 17.34, 17.11, 18.15, f, f);

4. Maggie Ewen (Nik) 62-1 (18.92)

(60-1, 62-1, f, 59-6¼, 61-4, f) (18.31, 18.92, f, 18.14, 18.69, f);

5. Chase Ealey (Nik) 60-4 (18.39)

(60-4, f, 59-10¼, f, f, 60-4) (18.39, f, 18.24, f, f, 18.39);

6. Khayla Dawson (In) 59-7½ (18.17)

(59-7½, 58-4, f, 56-5¾, 57-4¼, f) (18.17, 17.78, f, 17.21, 17.48, f);

7. Jessica Woodard (unat) 59-0 (17.98)

(57-¾, 58-8¾, f, 59-0, 58-6, f) (17.39, 17.90, f, 17.98, 17.83, f);

8. Akealy Moton (NDSt) 58-8¾ (17.90)

(55-3, 57-9¾, 58-8¾, 57-8¼, 57-9¾, f) (16.84, 17.62, 17.90, 17.58, 17.62, f);

9. Monique Riddick (GarS) 57-10¼ (17.63)

(56-4, 57-10¼, 57-9½) (17.17, 17.63, 17.61);

10. Josie Schaefer (Wi) 57-9 (17.60)

(56-3¼, 55-9¼, 57-9) (17.15, 17.00, 17.60);

11. Latavia Maines (Tn) 57-1 (17.40)

(55-9, 53-3, 57-1) (16.99, 16.23, 17.40);

12. Samantha Noennig (Az) 54-9¼ (16.69)

(53-9, 53-6½, 54-9¼) (16.38, 16.32, 16.69).

QUALIFYING (June 24)

Qualifiers: Saunders 62-10½ (19.16), Ramsey 61-9 (18.82), Ewen 61-7½ (18.78), Ealey 61-4 (18.69), Aquilla 61-¾ (18.61), Woodard 60-3¼ (18.37), Dawson 59-3 (18.06), Schaefer 58-8½ (17.89), Noennig 57-11 (17.65), Moton 57-1½ (17.41), Maines 57-1½ (17.41), Riddick 56-11½ (17.36);

Non-qualifiers: Haley Teel (unat) 56-8 (17.27), Rachel Fatherly (VelGarS) 56-2 (17.12), Payden Montana (Ok) 55-11¼ (17.05), Shelby Gunnells (NDSt) 55-9¼ (17.00), Essence Henderson (VaT) 54-2½ (16.52), Taylor Latimer (KsSt) 53-11 (16.43), Jalani Davis (Ms) 52-10¾ (16.12), Nickolette Dunbar (Al) 51-11¾ (15.84);… 3f—Felisha Johnson (Greenes), Madison Pollard (In).

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