‘Unfinished business’ brings senior thrower Laulauga Tausaga back to NCAA Championships

Tausaga will compete in the shot put and discus this week at the 2021 Division I NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa thrower Laulauga Tausaga competes in the women’s shot put premiere during the fourth annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational at the University of Iowa Recreation Building on Friday, Jan 17, 2020. Tausaga’s 16.72m throw earned her sixth place, behind five throwers who surpassed the previous meet record of 17.13m.

Chloe Peterson, Summer Sports Editor

Iowa track and field saw its first NCAA Champion in 16 years when thrower Lausaga Tausaga, now a fifth-year senior, won gold in 2019.

Before Tausaga stood at the top of the podium as the 2019 NCAA women’s discus champion, the Hawkeyes’ last gold medalist at the national championships was Kineke Alexander in the women’s 400-meter race in 2006.

But in the 2020 season, the reigning champion didn’t get the chance to defend her title.

While Tausaga and the rest of the qualifying Hawkeyes were preparing for the 2020 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 12, 2020, the championships — and the rest of the track and field season — were canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.

So, Tausaga lost the chance to make a mark at the NCAA Indoor Championships and defend her national championship title at the 2020 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

“It definitely makes me feel like I have a chip on my shoulder [this season],” Tausaga said. “… To only say that I had gone [to the NCAA Championship] once was truly heartbreaking, and I didn’t want to feel like that again. I didn’t want to feel like I had the opportunity to do something and it never happen.”

At the time, Tausaga thought her senior year — and her collegiate track career — was over. But after the NCAA gave 2020 spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, she jumped at the chance to rejoin the Hawkeyes for a final outdoor season.

Now, two years later, Tausaga is going back to the 2021 Division I NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championship to attempt to become the third Hawkeye in program history to be a repeat champion.

“I think my biggest reason to come back is that I felt like I had unfinished business,” Tausaga said. “I had come off such a great junior season and I was scared that that was going to be it. There was just like this, ‘What if’ with everything going so well junior year, would it be even better my senior year? And I was just terrified with it being just left at that… When [director of track and field Joey] Woody called and said, ‘Hey, it’s your option to come back, you’ll get your scholarship back,’ it was a no-brainer for me.”

Per NCAA rules, Tausaga could only compete in the 2021 track and field outdoor season. But she made her final season as a Hawkeye count.

RELATED: A Hawkeye to remember: Laulauga Tausaga nearing end of record-breaking career with Iowa track and field

At the 2021 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Champaign, Illinois, Tausaga became the first Iowa track and field athlete in program history to become a four-time Big Ten Outdoor Champion as she took home the gold in discus.

On June 4, Tausaga garnered her fourth United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Midwest Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year honor and stands as the only Hawkeye to win the award multiple times.

“It just shows that she’s one of the best athletes in any event in track and field,” Woody said. “She’s one of those athletes that can compete in multiple events at a very high level. She’s not just a discus thrower, I mean she can throw the shot [put], the hammer, and the weight and everything else. It’s pretty impressive to be able to do that at that high level.”

At the Division I NCAA Outdoor Championships this week — held in Eugene, Oregon, June 9-12 — Tausaga is the No. 2 seed in the shot put and discus.

In discus, she stands behind Arizona State junior Jorinde Van Klinken, who threw 62.58 meters at the Pac-12 Outdoor Championships compared to Tausaga’s 62.09-meter mark at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

In shot put, Tausaga is behind Big Ten foe Adelaide Aquilla, a junior at Ohio State. Aquilla won the Big Ten Outdoor Championship with a throw of 18.58 meters, while Tausaga brought home the silver medal at 17.97 meters.

“This year, I’m the underdog [in discus],” Tausaga said. “[Van Klinken] is an exceptional thrower, she has the world lead… she’s seeded first coming out of the regionals. When you’re on the outside looking in, you kind of have to have a dog mentality, so I’m going to go in and fight to the finish.”

Tausaga will compete in the shot put Thursday, June 10 at 5:40 p.m. PST, and attempt to defend her title in the discus throw Saturday, June 12 at 2:35 p.m. PST. The NCAA Championships can be streamed on Watch ESPN.

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