LA GRANDE — Some athletes save their best for last.
But for Eastern Oregon University javelin thrower Karianne Zollman, her best at the 2021 NAIA National Championships came first.
Zollman, a Joseph alumna who over the weekend graduated from EOU, wrapped up her collegiate athletic career by earning all-American in the women’s javelin with a personal-best effort at the national meet May 26 of 141 feet, 4 inches. It was a performance that lifted her to sixth in the nation and resulted in her garnering her second all-American in the event.
She didn’t linger around till the end, either, to uncork the PR throw, or build up to it. Instead, she did so on her very first attempt of the day.
“I get really amped up for the first throw, and I get really nervous,” Zollman said. “I have to be very disciplined. I always have a pep talk with myself. You can’t wait until the next throw, you have to do it now.”
Her conversation with herself included a reminder that it was going to be her final time on the javelin runway.
“‘This is your last opportunity. Let’s go out having fun. Let’s execute to the best of our ability,’” she said of her personal pep talk.
Having the big throw early took some of the pressure off as she set out to end her career with a bang.
“I was in the first flight, so I knew I should be able to get into the finals (with that throw),” she said. “I wanted to get a good average. This was my last time competing. I didn’t want it to be a fluke. Most of my throws were 40 meters (131-feet-3), and before that, I was struggling to get above 40 meters.”
Her average on five marked throws that day was 133-feet-10, including three throws above the 40-meter mark, all boosted by the initial effort of the day.
It’s not the first time her first throw has been her best at nationals, either.
In fact, she did the same thing in 2019. Then a junior, Zollman launched the javelin 140-feet-2 on her first throw of the day. At the time, it was her personal best. And like at the 2021 nationals, it landed her an all-American nod, as she finished eighth that day.
The strong sendoff came after a pandemic-canceled 2020 that would have been her senior campaign, one in which, coming off an all-American effort as a junior, she hoped to contend for a national title.
COVID-19 not only altered that, but put her in a spot where she was uncertain she would even compete in 2021.
“I wasn’t even sure I was going to come back,” she said. “I had a few classes, but I didn’t have a reason to come back in the fall or winter, so I only showed up in spring term.
“The season before, I was really trying to go for a national championship, I had a good base of work I had done in the previous years. Everything prevented the access to gyms and stuff. I couldn’t get as much as I wanted, but toward the end I worked my butt off.”
Throwing javelin runs in Zollman’s blood, as her older sister, Grace, had a successful career and pursued the sport professionally, Karianne said.
“She was able to give me a lot of help,” she said. “It was also so cool to watch her throw. I was inspired by her throwing.”
Zollman briefly dabbled in the shot put, hammer throw and weight throw at EOU, but solely focused on the javelin her senior season.
“I did not have that much time, and I knew I could be the most successful in javelin and reach (nationals) in javelin,” she said.
Her marks improved each week during the 2021 season, building up to that best — and first — all-American winning throw at nationals.
“Coming back and finishing, before this, it felt like you had to stop in the middle of a book,” she said. “The final chapter was not complete. I didn’t care how it ended up. I just wanted to put in the work, and however it ended, great.”