SHAWNEE, Okla. It came down to less than an inch. But for the second time during his outstanding freshman season, Grahm Johnson claimed a victory on the final throw of the meet. This time it earned him a national championship.
Freshman Grahm Johnson (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) came into Saturday's National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Track & Field National Championships seeded third in the men's shot put. After the preliminary rounds, he surprised the field with the top mark through the first three attempts.
Johnson improved on each of his first three attempts in the preliminary round before advancing to the finals with a distance of 14.93 meters (48-11.75). His first two throws in the final round would have improved on that mark but he committed foot fouls that scratched each attempt. That allowed the nearest competitor, Kyle Ostrander of Bethel College (Mishawaka, Ind.) to pass him with a mark of 15.16 meters.
As it had the previous week at the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Championship, a shot put victory would require his best effort on his final attempt. Once again Johnson delivered, this time with a national championship on the line. His mark of 15.18 meters (49-9.75) was less than one inch ahead of Ostrander but it was enough to earn the win.
"Grahm was so focused on his throw that he didn't realize how close it was on the final attempt." Said head coach Trey Meadows.
"He knew it was a big throw and that he won based on the crowd reaction, but he wasn't able to hear the final distance when it was announced. I had to tell him he just won the meet by two centimeters on the final throw of the event. Grahm isn't a demonstrative guy but the smile on his face said it all."
"I'm not necessarily the biggest or strongest guy out there. So I have to have to use focus and effort." Johnson explained in a post-award ceremony interview.
His focus on Saturday allowed him to improve his mark in the prelims by 10 inches to earn an exciting win on his final attempt.
Johnson followed up his shot put victory with a fourth-place finish in the discus throw. He came in seeded fourth and narrowly missed a top-three podium finish with a mark of 46.51 meters.
The result in the men's shot put makes Johnson the first NCU athlete to earn an NCCAA All-American award and a national championship in a throwing event. His 15 points also resulted in North Central finishing 12th overall in the final team standings.