Lauren St. Peters had a feeling she'd be back in Austin this month.
When the junior hurler competed in the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in the University of Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium in late March, she realized something. Despite recovering from surgery on her left leg — her planting leg — she had a good chance to return to the Class 5A State Track and Field Meet and compete for a state championship.
And now, that's exactly where she is. Not only has she returned, she is the No. 1 seed in the shot put with a career-best throw of 47 feet, 5.75 inches at the Region 1 Meet in Lubbock April 28-29.
St. Peters has thrown almost a foot farther than second seed and fellow junior Madeleine Fey of Midlothian at 46-8.
St. Peters is one of three Ladycats who will compete in Austin this weekend. Joining her are freshman Sofia Brandenburg in the 800-meter run and junior Taylor Hindman in the pole vault.
Like St. Peters, Hindman is making a return appearance at state. Last season St. Peters was fourth in both the shot put and discus and Hindman tied teammate Maggie Kilburn, then a freshman, for seventh.
"Texas Relays was very motivating. I'm thankful for the opportunity I had. I don't think I'd be back at state if I had not competed there," St. Peters said.
St. Peters finished 10th in the shot put with a throw of 41-5.5 and was 12th in the discus, throwing 136-6. Though she's thrown much farther since, competing against some of the best in the nation gave her a confidence she needed to push forward through recovery and right back to state.
St. Peters followed her strong showing at state last season by winning the USA Track and Field 17-18-Year-Old Division national championship in the shot put. She was competing as a 16-year-old as she didn't turn 17 until September.
Then, in January, she had surgery. She said the doctor told her she could wait until after track season, but surgery was going to happen either way. She chose to go ahead and have surgery and work to come back in the spring.
"There wasn't a concern about whether I'd be able to compete, but when and how far would I be able to throw?" she said.
Then, when the time came, it was a bittersweet moment.
"I hadn't had a competition since July. I was super encouraged, but I didn't know what to expect," St. Peters said. "I came out at my first meet and threw seven feet under my PR. Something wasn't clicking."
But she wasn't deterred. She kept pushing herself, and her performance at the Texas Relays was just the boost she needed for a surge at what coach Mike Pinkerton said was perfect timing.
"She got back into form at the right time. You can't even tell now that she had surgery," he said. "And she has really been coming on strong the last few weeks."
St. Peters' throw of 45-3.5 at the District 5-5A Meet was then a personal record. She bested that at the Area 5/6 Meet, throwing 45-10.5, and then, of course, came her throw at regionals.
"Something that's changed since March is my mindset," St. Peters said. "So much is mental. I'm going to go into state with the same mindset, just throw my best with confidence."
Looking for more
Brandenburg enters state as the No. 7 seed in the 800 meters, having clocked a time of 2 minutes, 15.19 seconds at the Region 1 Meet. However, she and Pinkerton know she has a faster time in her, having run 2:14.21 at district.
The top seed in the 800 is Kailey Littlefield of Lucas Lovejoy with a time of 2:08.40. The third-place time, which would put Brandenburg among the medalists, is 2:11.73. Pinkerton is confident her best time is yet to come at state.
"I think that's very doable now that she's only training for the 800," he said.
Brandenburg also competed in the 1600 previously.
Hindman qualified for state with a vault of 11-9 at regionals. However, like Brandenburg, she has done much better, clearing a school-record 12-5 at district.
"Out there at (Texas) Tech, the wind was crazy, as it will do," Pinkerton said of the regional meet. "But she knows what she can do."
Hindman is seeded fifth with four vaulters tied for the top spot with vaults of 12-0.
Class 5A field events start at 9 a.m. Friday, May 12 and running events begin at 5 p.m.
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