By Marissa Haake
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kansas State’s women’s indoor track and field team is ranked No. 10 in the country, the highest the school’s team has ever been ranked. Junior thrower Dani Winters is one of the many reasons for the ‘Cats rise to national prominence.
Competing in both the shot put and weight throw, Winters has already broken the school record in the former, hitting 17.45m/57-03 for a first-place finish at the Sevigne Husker Invitational. Her career-best effort bested the previous school record held by Rebekah Green (17.28m/56-08.50) since 2003, and also currently ranks No. 3 in Division I, tops in the Big 12 and 17th overall in the world.
The record is just the latest highlight in an indoor campaign chock-full of them, as Winters has set shot put personal bests in five-straight meets to go along with a personal best weight throw mark at the KSU-KU-WSU Triangular (18.57m/60-11.25) this past January.
Even with the early success, Winters does not let it keep her from striving to reach new heights.
“I told coach [Greg Watson] after I broke one of the records that I was so excited and it was also like I did not know what just happened,” Winters said. “The whole thing was so surreal. It was a lot of fun and it is still a lot of fun to think about. Even from the start, right after the end of that competition, we talked about when you have great highs to focus on the big picture. That way when I have a bad day I can focus on the rest of the season, but when you have a good day it is really important to do that too and just always keep working toward the rest of the season.”
Throws coach, Greg Watson, was also impressed with the junior’s record-breaking throw in Nebraska.
“I think it is a big milestone for her and I think everyday she pushes the limit and sees what she is capable of,” Watson said. “The record had been here awhile, I think 12 or 13 years, so for it to be standing that long you know it has got to be pretty good. It is a good throw and it is very exciting. I am really happy for her. I am happy as well, but I am just really happy for her.”
Winters may have reached high levels of achievement on her throws, but she has also pushed the limits in communications studies. She is a two-time USTFCCCA All-Academic and Academic All-Big 12 member.
“There have been multiple semesters that she has had a 4.0 [GPA],” Watson said. “She is just a really well rounded individual and everything that she does, she does 100 percent. She does not let herself slack off and if it is on her then she is going to do it and she is going to do it right, which is the way you want it to be.
“As a coach, that is what you want out of your athletes because it shows the character they have and what is important to them and that they are willing to work for it.”
Winters credits her academic success to the help of those around her as well as looking at her school schedule the same way she looks at her track schedule.
“I have been really fortunate to have great support,” Winters said. “Coach helps me, my teachers help me in class, and figuring out schedules is huge. Being able to do homework and have teachers help me outside of class when I have not been able to make it to class because I have been traveling for a week has been so much help. Looking at a school semester the same way I look at a track season has helped too. Taking each course day-by-day and class-by-class and looking at what the homework is for the next week to try not to let it overwhelm me.”
Winters’ success on and off of the field is influential in her interactions with her teammates.
“I think she sees the big picture and is team oriented and I think she is supportive of teammates,” said head track and field coach Cliff Rovelto. “She does a good job leading the younger teammates. She is a wonderful person to have on the team, but she is also a great student and does phenomenally well in school. She is certainly one of the hardest workers on the team in any event area.”
Rovelto gives credit to both the hard working mentality of Winters, but also believes her successes come with great training from coach Watson.
“She has grown exponentially this year,” said Rovelto. “She is not just going up one step, but going up three steps from where she was. She is training and performing at an extremely high level. A lot of that is attributed to her, but also the coach that individually works with her is very important in that as well. He has done a lot with her. A lot of times a coach can have a wonderful program but for whatever reason an athlete may not really buy into that and then it does not happen. They could be doing all the right things but it could also be vice-versa. What we have here is an athlete that has bought-in and a great program and we are seeing tremendous results. They have really done a great job of working together and that is easy to see.”
This thrower has already seen so many great accomplishments with high hopes for the rest of her season.
“My perfect big picture would just be to know that at the end of the season that I have done everything I could to throw as hard as I could,” Winters said. “I really try to not give myself goals with specific distances on them because I just want to know that I used my technique well, I worked hard and I did really well in practice.
“My big picture goal would be to feel satisfied at the end of the season and know that I had done everything I could possibly do and have performed my best.”