Liz King is not one to boast.
That’s not her nature.
The always-smiling King is a team player. Always has been.
So King was a little uncomfortable when friends and fans approached her at the recent NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala., asking how she did.
The Concordia University (Neb.) sophomore preferred to let her teammates do the talking. She was still trying to digest what had happened.
“Um, I won,’’ King would manage.
But as teammates drifted away, she was forced to answer the questions herself.
“After saying it out loud a few times, it sunk in,” King said.
Yes, King was a national champion.
On her fifth throw of the meet, the 2012 Billings West graduate unleashed a winning throw of 164 feet, 8 inches.
King didn’t just win a national title. She dominated the competition. King won by almost 15 feet better than teammate Emma Buccholz.
“I kind of knew (it was a good throw) when everybody was cheering,” she said.
“I’m kind of oblivious when I’m doing my thing,” King added with a laugh. “It felt like a good throw. The best throws should feel like you didn’t work at it.
“I was kind of in a daze a little bit after it was over.”
King entered the meet ranked No. 1 in the nation and it’s where she finished.
It was also her second straight year of earning All-America honors. She was fourth nationally in the javelin as a freshman.
King added 20 feet of distance this year.
“Oh, I don’t know. I honestly don’t,” she said of the catalyst behind her improvement. “We weight lift a lot in college and I didn’t do that in high school. I think that helps a lot.
“And just that experience in the javelin is big. It takes a long time to figure things out. It’s a lot of repetitions. It’s a very complicated event and you can’t dwell on one aspect of it. Once you get set in one aspect, another goes wrong.
“I learned how to learn.”
King also made a confession.
“I hate lifting weights with a passion,” she said with another laugh. “I’d rather do 100 push-ups than lift weights.”
King went better than 155 feet in the first outdoor meet of the season, “That was huge,” she said, and kept getting better.
King won javelin titles at six events during the spring, including her second consecutive Great Plains Athletic Conference title with a throw of 157-8. She followed it with a school-record effort of 166-11 at a last chance meet hosted by her school in Seward, Neb.
“That was a big jump,” King said. “At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to qualify for nationals. That was the No. 1 goal.
“One of my other goals at the beginning of the year was I wanted to win a national championship. But I didn’t tell anybody.”
King found herself behind by 2.75591 inches to Joelle Swenson of Oregon Tech after the first round of throws at the NAIA meet.
“I don’t think I was as nervous as last year,” King said of competing on the national stage. “I knew what to expect. It was less nerve wracking. I had to treat it like a regular meet. I was there to compete.
“I wanted to win for my coach (Ed McLaughlin). He’s been there a long time and never had a national champion. I wanted to be the first.”
McLaughlin has been coaching the weight events for 17 years at Concordia and had eight athletes post runner-up finishes.
King took the lead for good on her second throw and put the title out of reach on her fifth. She was the only competitor to throw better than 50 meters.
“My technique has improved since last year and I’ve gotten stronger,” King said. “And I’m mentally tougher. I’m able to compete. I see somebody throw farther, I come back and try to do better.
“It was fun.”
King is home for the summer, working at the Boys and Girls Club in Lockwood. She also plans to rest her weary arm.
“The javelin is hard on your body,” King said. “I plan to take some time off this summer.
“Next year, I just want to be better. Maybe improve in one aspect of it. That’s always the ultimate goal, to get better.”