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Former Hilltopper Ealey is now on world stage

Chase Ealey competes in the women’s shot put final during the Match Europe against USA athletics competition on the Dinamo stadium in Minsk, Belarus, last month. She is competing in the world meet Wednesday in Qatar. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Editor’s update: On Wednesday, Chase Ealey Ealey qualified  for Thursday’s shot put final. Her best throw was her last, 18.35 meters (about 60 feet, 2½ inches). It was 10th best of the 12 finalists.

Although Chase Ealey’s early form as a glide thrower in the shot put earned her All-American status while attending Oklahoma State, the Los Alamos High graduate felt she could do better.

So about a year ago, she changed to the more traditional rotational release, which calls for throwers to spin through the throwing circle to gain momentum for the release.

That transition has been so smooth that Ealey won the U.S. championship in May in Des Moines, Iowa, with a throw of 64 feet, 2¼-inches, and Wednesday begins her quest for the World Championship in Doha, Qatar.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Ealey said in a phone interview while riding a bus to practice in Doha. “It’s still a fresh and surreal feeling. I feel proud and happy to represent the United States. It’s something I’ve dreamed of, so I’m pretty amazed that I have the opportunity to do it.”

Ealey, who holds the New Mexico Class 5A state record of 47-3 as a senior in 2012, didn’t start out her track career as a thrower. It was something she picked up just she could add a few more events for the Hilltoppers’ quest for team championships – which they earned from 2009-2012.

In her days as a dominating athlete at Los Alamos, Chase Ealey was a more dominant sprinter than she was as a thrower. This photo is from 2011. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal file)

“My high school coach, (Paul) Anderson said he thought I can do this thing,” she recalled. “I was already running the 100, 4 by 100, 4 by 200. He was the one that pushed me. I had never really gotten into the throwing event but I thought it could be my side event and that’s always what it was until college.”

Ealey instead was a sprinter and a volleyball player and was hoping to earn a college scholarship in one of those areas.

“At first it was really fourth,” she said of the shot put. “It was the direction everyone was pushing me, but it was something I really fell in love with eventually. It was what all the colleges were recruiting me for.”

The light really went on for the shot put when she spoke with Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith.

“He said, ‘I think you could make the team this year and you can really go far with throwing,’ ” Ealey said. “After that, I started to love it more, but it really didn’t start building until I got to college.”

It certainly worked out well there. She holds the school record in both the shot put and the javelin.

Oklahoma State’s Chase Ealey competes in the women’s shot put at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, June 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

But after graduation in 2016, she found her career had reached a plateau as she struggled to advance her distance to international excellence.

“The event and the technique really had me down. I kind of lost hope on it and I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Ealey said. “But I didn’t want to say that I didn’t want to try whatever it takes. So I got a new coach and I gave him the reins. Doing that is the reason I did so well. I just kind of let go and doing that helped. It was all or nothing.”

That coach, Ryan Whiting, a former national champ who made the U.S. Olympic squad in 2012, fundamentally changed Ealey’s mechanics.

“I think before, with the glide, it was just the sheer power of it,” Ealey said. “But now having switched to rotational, it really pulls it in theoretical aspect of it. It’s so complex and very technical. I love the complexity of it. It draws me in more and I want to learn more. It’s just so complicated and intricate.”

Although Ealey is just a year into using the new technique, and success has come quicker than expected, she’s looking to put on a strong performance in front of the world.

“I go into every meet expecting to win,” she said. “And this meet is no different. I feel like a lot of people feel like my answer might be different, but I fully expect to win. I know if I push myself to do what I know I can do, I feel I should do that.”

As for the future, Ealey said making the Olympics in 2020 is just part of the goal.

“I just made the switch so I didn’t expect anything to happen until next year,” she said. “But at my first meet, I just blew everybody away. Now I want to go the Olympics and get the gold medal.”

NM CONNECTIONS: Former New Mexico Lobo Courtney Frerichs finished sixth Monday night in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at 9 minutes, 11.27 seconds. … Former Lobo Django Lovett (Canada) high-jumped 2.22 meters (roughly 7 feet, 3 inches) in qualifying Tuesday but did not advance to the finals. … Ex-Lobo Josh Kerr competes for Great Britain in the men’s 1,500 semifinals on Friday.