Within a university culture where too often personal accomplishments are taken in stride as given or expected, one athlete is keeping her relationship with mind-blowing success in the thrower’s pit new and exciting.
Freshman shot put and discus thrower Maura Kimmel has blazed her way into Division I athletics with an absolutely dazzling debut to her career. In just her third meet of the indoor season, Kimmel knocked off the school record in the indoor shot put — and she was quite literally just getting started.
“My indoor season went really well: I put the work in, but I didn’t expect it to go quite as well as it did, so that was wonderful,” Kimmel said. “It’s been really exciting to start off well. Even coming into Penn, my numbers weren’t great, but I’ve managed to defy expectations — even my own. I’m so close to 50 feet in the shot put, a number which, if you had asked me two years ago, I never thought I would hit.”
As the indoor season came to a close and Kimmel’s spring success was on the upswing, her performance in the discus event carried the same level of improvement as her shot put throws had. In the first outdoor season of her collegiate career, Kimmel shattered her second school record, this time in the discus throw.
“Discus was another surprise for me because it was not going so well [in the winter]. I knew I could throw far, it just wasn’t happening, and then at the first [outdoor] meet I somehow managed to break that record,” Kimmel said.
Perhaps it’s Kimmel’s seemingly haphazard stumbling upon the outstanding success of her track career that makes it so exuberant, but make no mistake: her wild rate of improvement is attributed to a lot of grit, discipline, form correction, and, of course, some good old-fashioned hard work.
“A big part of improvement is just throwing over and over and over again. There’s a lot of lifting. We lift two days a week in-season and three days a week out of season, and then practice every weekday,” Kimmel explained. “When we’re not taking full throws, we break the throw down into smaller components. If you know you have an issue at a certain point in the throw, you just keep working on that part until it gets better, and then work it into your full throw.”
This weekend, Kimmel’s accumulation of new knowledge, her spike of improvement and the skill set she’s been working to perfect all year will be put to the test at the Penn Relays. A famed and historic meet held annually at Franklin Field, the competition will be a perfect opportunity for Kimmel to showcase her incredible achievements and add length to the throws she already knows she can pull off.
“In the shot put, I’m hoping to throw over 15 meters this weekend — also because I haven’t broken the outdoor shot record yet, so it would be nice to get another one. It would be really nice to qualify for regionals in at least one of the events, if not both. The outdoor shot record is around 14.49, which I’ve done before indoors several times,” Kimmel said. “But I’ve also been working through an injury, so it’s sort of hard to get back to where I was.”
As the Red and Blue take to Franklin Field on Thursday for the internationally-attended relay event, they’ll be looking forward to kicking off the weekend with more impressive marks from their rising star thrower. If her rate of improvement continues, she’s not just looking at a noteworthy career — she’ll stand out as one of the most significant and impactful athletes Penn has seen in its history.