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Stottlemyre's fairytale finish

By Jacob Knabel on Jun. 10, 2021 in Track & Field

Elizabeth Stottlemyre refers to May 26, 2021, as “definitely the best day of my life.” That afternoon, underneath sunny skies in steamy Gulf Shores, Ala., Stottlemyre, in her own words, “lost it.” The native of Olympia, Wash., had waited a long time for this moment. After unhinging the greatest throw of her life, Stottlemyre was hit by a wave of emotion. Loud cheers rang out around Stottlemyre as tears welled up in her eyes.

Talk about a fairytale finish. In her final throw as a Bulldog, Stottlemyre had broken the school record in the javelin. Her family, her teammates and throws coach Ed McLaughlin were present to witness a historic moment for Stottlemyre – and for Concordia Track & Field.

“The moment itself felt like a blur, but once the javelin left my hand, I knew it was my best throw of the meet,” Stottlemyre said. “I had no idea it would be four meters farther. I saw the jav landed past the line, but I had no idea by how much until they read off the distance and I completely lost it. Another competitor had one more throw after me, but at that point it didn’t matter at all. I could have gotten second and I would have felt the same happiness.”

Stottlemyre did NOT get second. She put herself atop the podium as the 2021 NAIA javelin national champion with a toss that measured in at 167’ 2” (50.95 meters). In the process, she had tracked down the previous school standard of 166’ 11” (2014) by Elizabeth King, another national champion. While her window of competition as a Bulldog athlete spanned just one semester, Stottlemyre has left a lasting legacy. One couldn’t dream up a better way to go out.

It seems unlikely, even in Stottlemyre’s wildest dreams, that she would have envisioned herself winning a national championship while wearing Concordia of Nebraska colors. Back on February 10, 2020, a great big wrench was thrown into Stottlemyre’s plans. That’s the day her previous school, Concordia University, Portland, announced it would be closing its doors at the conclusion of the semester. Less than a month later, in a whirlwind, she made the decision to spend the 2020-21 academic year in Seward.

McLaughlin knew the team was adding a likely national qualifier to the roster. It turned out that it got a whole lot more. McLaughlin has been impressed with how well Stottlemyre can adapt to a new situation and a new coach. Said McLaughlin, “She’s had three coaches in college, had a school close on her and lost a season to COVID. I didn’t meet her until orientation weekend (back in August). I was really excited to have her here. This was a really good fit for her. It’s been a really fun year getting to learn about her and her quirks. Usually we have four or five years to get to know people. With her, I had nine months. I quickly realized she is a lively personality. It was great to have her here for the whole year.”

Every step of the way, Stottlemyre has enthusiastically talked about her teammates and the whole environment at CUNE. If her world was going to be turned upside down like it was in February 2020, this was the place for her to be. Said Stottlemyre of her first visit to the campus, “I had a checklist and it just crossed everything off.” The entire experience went beyond her expectations.

“I had no idea that I would become so close with the track team at Concordia Nebraska, especially only being here one year, and only competing in outdoor track,” Stottlemyre said. “Before coming to Concordia, I had assumed that event groups would stick with each other, and that I might stick with the javelin throwers. I was very wrong. The entire throws group is a family, and the support we have for each other goes way beyond throwing. This is a year I will never forget, and it’s the people who have made it the best year of my life.”

Now a CUNE graduate with a degree in biology, the future optometrist clearly fit in well with her new teammates. After capturing the national title, Stottlemyre was doused with water and ice by her fellow Bulldog throwers. Many hugs were exchanged and a series of photos were taken next to the board that displayed her championship winning throw. Sure it was a celebration of an individual accomplishment, but also a moment of shared joy. While coaching both javelin and men’s hammer at the time, McLaughlin missed seeing the javelin leave Stottlemyre’s hand on the winning throw. Said McLaughlin, “I didn’t realize she was up and throwing already. I went from, ‘Oh my gosh, who is throwing this far?’ to ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Liz.’ I just went ballistic. I was so excited for her. It was such a bomb.”

This was her crowning athletic achievement, but Stottlemyre was much greater than a one-throw wonder. She won the javelin competition at every single meet but one this past outdoor season and was the favorite heading into the national meet. Throughout the season, she had it in mind what she needed to throw in order to break the school record. Stottlemyre even counted down how many throws were left in her Bulldog career. It was a relentless pursuit that came down to the very last attempt. At some point, she just had to relax.

“I started the outdoor season with a countdown already in my head,” Stottlemyre explained. “Assuming I was able to make finals at every meet, I knew I had approximately 60 throws to try and break the school record. Every meet, I would subtract six throws from that total, and it became too much of a focus of mine during the season. I even spoke about my goal of breaking Elizabeth King’s record during my interview at Drake … On my last throw, I was the most relaxed I have ever been throwing, and I realized no matter what happened, God gave me an opportunity to come throw at Gulf Shores, with amazing weather, and the most supportive team I could have asked for.”

In the aftermath of the final throw, Stottlemyre’s phone was abuzz with congratulatory texts and calls, some of which coming from former Portland teammates. In the afterglow of her title, she made a point to reach out to her former javelin coach at CU-Portland, Ray Kauffman. He had always believed that Stottlemyre could hit 50 meters. Then on May 26, Stottlemyre could finally say, “I did it.”

That date marked the end of her career as a Bulldog, but Stottlemyre still has some throws left in her. She has received a waiver to compete next season at NCAA Division III Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Stottlemyre will pursue her doctorate in optometry.

No matter where she goes, Stottlemyre will always think back fondly when recalling her time as a Bulldog. A series of recent events altered the course of her life, but she wouldn’t trade any of the experiences she’s enjoyed. It’s been just one year, but the goodbye was an emotional one.

Said Stottlemyre, “When I finally got back to Seward from Alabama, and I loaded up my car, I drove around the school one last time. Concordia is a special place and an amazing school. However, it’s not the buildings or the sunsets or the track that makes it special – it’s the people.”