LEWISTON – Second place will be a satisfactory finish for Keelin Godsey in the shot put or discus at the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships, which begin today at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.
In the hammer throw, on the other hand, merely winning won’t be enough for the Bates College senior.
For Godsey, the defending champion and owner of the Division III women’s record in that event, there are at least unspoken intentions of moving that milestone and putting a Hank Aaron or Wilt Chamberlain-like grip on it for a generation or two.
“This definitely has been my best season,” Godsey said. “I’m throwing consistently for the first time in four years. With my distances, I always know what to expect. I don’t worry about triple-fouling or anything.”
That’s an intriguing self-appraisal, since we’re not talking about a late bloomer. Godsey is a 13-time All-America, including indoor and outdoor throwing events.
Godsey outdistanced rival and runner-up Robyn Jarocki of Wisconsin-Oshkosh by more than 10 feet with the record-setting hammer throw last spring. While it would be difficult for most athletes to find room for improvement or even motivation, Godsey returned as a senior and set the bar so high that it’s unlikely any woman will touch the record well into the new millennium.
“Last year’s national record was 195 feet, 4 inches,” said Bates women’s coach Jay Hartshorn, “and everything has been farther than that this year. Whatever distance (Godsey) throws this weekend, I just can’t imagine anyone getting close anytime soon. I think it would neat to go back to the NCAA Championships in 20 years and have the record still held by a Bates person, and I think that’s realistic.”
Senior superlatives, including a previously unthinkable qualifying mark of 205-4, have come in an academic year of dramatic personal change for Godsey.
Last summer, Godsey came out to the Bates community as transgender. The school has supported those intentions by using male pronouns in all press releases and interviews about Godsey.
NCAA rules allow athletes to compete in their sex according to state law. By that standard, Godsey remains female and told the Sun Journal in February of plans to forego reassignment surgery (at an estimated cost of up to $1 million) until after retirement from track and field.
Godsey also is not undergoing hormone therapy, which would lead to a possible violation of NCAA or Olympic drug policy.
“Not really,” Godsey said when asked if there is any additional pressure at this year’s nationals in the aftermath of that announcement. “I just think this year is different because I’m realizing it’s my last collegiate event, and there are a lot of emotions with that.”
At last weekend’s tune-up, the ECAC Division III Championships, Godsey won the hammer throw (201 feet, 11 inches) and shot put (45-1) while finishing second in discus (141-4).
Seeded second in shot and third in discus at nationals, Godsey is taking the same approach in those events that presumably characterizes the remainder of the hammer throw field.
“I’m going for second place,” said Godsey. “(Jarocki) is just extremely good. I would like to finish second in both, and whatever else may happen is icing on the cake.”
Hard to imagine someone of Godsey’s diverse talent being underrated, yet that is probably the case in shot put and discus with so much attention placed on the otherworldly expertise in hammer throw.
“He has just been on a different level in hammer throw,” Hartshorn said. “That’s the thing that I think probably a lot of people even here at Bates don’t understand, is that a lot of times Keelin isn’t seeded second (in an event), but he finishes second. There are very few athletes who can say OK, this is how far I have to throw’ and then do it, but Keelin does it.”
After nationals and graduation, Godsey plans to take a short break from competition before attending the United States Track and Field open championships Indianapolis this summer.
Bates will send one other competitor to the NCAA meet this weekend. Junior Kathryn Moore is qualified in the 3,000-meter steeplechase for the second straight year. Moore finished 10th in 2005.
Joel Colony qualified in the men’s 400-meter dash, but will not compete.
Field events begin today with discus. Hammer throw and steeplechase are Friday, with shot put scheduled for Saturday.