Frosh star's sights on nationals

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Photo courtesy of Beloit College Beloit College's record-setting 4x200-meter relay team struck a "Charlie's Angels" pose last weekend. Standing from left, Eva Laun-Smith, Lena Ramsey, Genesis Dade; foreground, Toni Bonds.

BELOIT - Eva Laun-Smith sure shoots holes in the theory "practice makes perfect."

Less practice doesn't seem to bother the Beloit College freshman track and field standout a bit.

With one meet left to the Buccaneers' indoor regular season schedule, Laun-Smith has already re-written a good section of the school record book and has a shot at reaching the NCAA Division III National Championships.

Yet she doesn't exactly hone her craft as a long and triple jumper with long hours in practice.

"I've always battled shin splints and they're still an issue," Laun-Smith said. "They're worse during the indoor season and they're really hurting right now. Since they're so bad I don't try to practice that much, maybe each jump once or twice a week. I do go to practice every day and work on running and hurdling."

The former Beloit Memorial standout was named Midwest Conference Performer of the Meet as well as Newcomer of the Year after winning three events at the MWC Indoor Championships at Ripon College over the weekend. She won the long jump, triple jump and 60-meter hurdles. Her leap of 18-feet, 3.25 inches broke the school record, which she had set earlier this season. In the triple jump, she recorded a distance of 37-6.50 and after breaking the school record in the 60 hurdles in the prelims at 8.95 seconds, she won it in 8.99.

"She's scary good," Beloit head coach Brian Bliese said. "She's so fun to watch. She's just so level-headed. She has competed in a lot of big meets this season with national-caliber athletes and she's just so calm and collected. Everything is just another competition to her."

Laun-Smith said she expected to show some improvement this season as a collegiate athlete, but what has surprised her most is her consistency.

"I've been consistently triple-jumping 37 (feet)-plus and I've popped some 38s," she said. "In high school, I was in the 37s and I didn't pop a 38 and 39 until state. That's been a happy surprise. The hurdles have been a pleasant surprise. In the past my indoor times haven't been that fast."

Laun-Smith actually attributes that particular improvement to more work, not less.

"I think maybe going to so many more indoor track meets in college as opposed to what we did in high school helps," she said. "I'm definitely training more for hurdles than I did in high school. Usually in high school I was concentrating on the jumps. Now we do more hurdle mobility stuff in our practices that is really helping me quite a bit."

Lastly, there's simple peer pressure. At Beloit Memorial, she was almost a lone wolf in the jumping events. With the Bucs, she has competition even in practice. The team went 1-2-4 in the triple jump in the MWC Championships.

"It helps having people on the team that you don't really have a rivalry with, but we can compete with," she said. "I think we help each other improve a lot. We're always very supportive of each other at meets."

Laun-Smith is currently on the bubble as far as qualifying for Nationals. The top 17 times or distances across the country advance. Laun-Smith sits 16th in the triple jump and 60 hurdles and 21st in the long jump currently.

"Eva has the top 60 hurdles time by a freshman in all of Division III," Bliese said. "That's pretty cool."

There are many "last-chance" meets being held this weekend and she knows her current time and distances might not hold up. That's why she plans on going all-out in the Bucs' meet at UW-Stevens Point on Saturday (11 a.m.).

"I'm ranked 16th in the hurdles and triple jump and they take the top 17 throughout the nation," she said. "I basically have to go to this last-chance meet and hopefully PR (personal record) so I can hold my spot for Nationals. I look at this weekend as like sectionals in high school. People generally improve because they know it's their last shot and they have to perform well if they want to advance."

She potentially could advance in all three of her individual events. Would that be spreading herself to thin?

Laun-Smith would love to find out.

"It would be exciting to do it," she said. "In high school these are the three events I qualified for state in. I always seemed to do well in hurdles and triple jump and I never did well in long jump. But I'd like to find out what it would be like to do it in college."

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