"I choked," the Lake Stevens native said of her trip to the NCAA Division II national track & field championships this time last year.
With refreshing candor, Aanstad summed up her second-place finish in the javelin, an event in which she was favored to win but posted a mark eight feet short of her national-best throw of 159 feet, 4 inches. She has no plans of coming up short in this, her second, and final, chance to win a national title.
"This year is my time," Aanstad said last week as she prepared for a trip to Pueblo, Colo., for this week's national championships, where she'll enter as a favorite again. "The girl who won last year (Western Washington's Monika Gruszecki) said to me: 'Next year is your year.' I've thought about that all year, and I'm excited about the opportunity to be a national champion."
Aanstad had a legitimate shot at winning the title last year but let nerves get in the way of her goal. She struggled at the NCAA meet, needing her final throw just to qualify for the final round -- she was in ninth place before that throw -- and eventually had to settle for second place on a throw of 151-1.
"I was a little more nervous than I should've been," she said last week, recalling her performance in the 2011 national championships. "I should've been more confident, and it kind of showed."
Aanstad hit her personal record of 159-4 in the final meet of the 2011 regular season, placing second among all competitors at the University of Washington's Ken Shannon Invitational. But she couldn't repeat the performance a few days later at nationals.
"It's a lot easier going in as the underdog," she said. After the Ken Shannon Invitational, "I went from being the underdog to all of a sudden having the best throw in the nation."
Aanstad believes this year will be different for a variety of reasons. First of all, she's a year older and wiser. She has learned how to deal better with the pressure and is excited about going in as the favorite again. Her national-best throw of 161-11 puts the bulls-eye on Aanstad, and she's just fine with that.
"It's completely different from last year," said Aanstad, who joins Western Washington men's javelin thrower Alex Harrison of Edmonds-Woodway among Snohomish County athletes competing in Pueblo this weekend. "Last year, I wasn't used to being in that position. This year, I'm more accepting of the challenge and excited for what it means and how I can represent myself."
Aanstad is also in a better place physically. After undergoing Tommy John surgery following her freshman year in 2009, then suffering a torn labrum the following year, she still wasn't totally confident in her body this time last year. To help make sure injuries weren't a part of her senior season, she has competed in just eight meets this year -- and two of those she took part in the high jump but skipped the javelin.
Since hitting the 161-11 mark at the War V meet in Spokane on April 7, she's pretty much taken time off from throwing the javelin competitively.
Until this week.
"I feel better, more hungry to throw," she said. "I'm extremely excited for (this weekend's meet) and being more fresh than I've been in a long time."
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