Born to compete, Iowa’s Underwood excels in throwing events

Published 12:59 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Since a very young age, Iowa’s Brianna Underwood has lived and breathed track and field.

Her parents started a recreation track and field team. Underwood tried many events and eventually settled on the throws. In the last four years she has climbed the state’s high school track and field rankings.

“I have probably done every event there is,” Underwood said. “I just tried around everywhere.

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“When I was 9, I picked up the Turbo javelin and I stuck with it, the same for discus. I am naturally strong, and I was when I was younger, too. It just came more naturally to me.”

The senior is No. 3 in the javelin (132-4) and fourth in the discus after throwing a personal best of 123 feet, 7 inches at last week’s St. Louis Catholic/Taussig Relays.

“I am feeling good,” Underwood said. “I am definitely excited.

“I think it started clicking a lot at the end of last season. I just didn’t get the chance to keep competing with it, so I just carried it to this year. It felt really good. It definitely was a lot faster with it. I have a couple of mechanics that I still need to fix, but my arm speed was better. It was definitely a good throw.”

When it is time to compete, Underwood likes to tune out distractions.

“I always have to tune out the world,” she said. “If I hear things around me, I can’t throw correctly or focus at all.

“For me, it is taking a deep breath and just waiting there until the sound kind of goes out.”

As a freshman in 2021, she broke 100 feet for the first in the javelin and placed fifth at the state meet. As a sophomore she started to train under former St. Louis and Louisiana-Lafayette multi-sport athlete Billy Christian, adding 30 feet, improving to third at state and topping 100 feet in the discus.

“I had a coaching change,” Underwood said. “I still work with the coach (Billy Christian) that I switched to that year. He is amazing.”

Last season, Underwood medaled in both events at the state meet, taking third in the javelin with a personal best of 132-93/4 and was the runner-up in the discus.

In her final season, she dropped the shot put to focus on javelin and discus and added training time with coach Robert Woosley out of Baton Rouge.

“It is just a couple of mechanical things,” Underwood said. “I lean over in discus, so I am fixing that. I have also leaned over in the javelin. It is just small things like that.

“Hopefully I will take gold in one of them this year. Discus is my best shot this year, but javelin is not much of a reach at all either. I should get a medal in both.”

Underwood has been pushed by other top athletes in the area, including South Beauregard discus thrower Kenzie Hudler and Barbe’s Jolie Jones (discus) and Sarah David (javelin). All three rank in the top 10 in the state in their respective events.

Underwood went head to head with current LSU freshman Trinity Spooner (South Beauregard) last season, developing a close friendship. Spooner has the sixth-best NCAA women’s throw this season at 175-9.

“I enjoy it,” Underwood said. “I think that they make me better. Even last year I had Kenzie Hudler in the discus and Trinity Spooner in the javelin. They just make me better and they help me grow.

“When we are at the discus ring or the javelin runway, we are talking about how we improve. Me and Kenzie Hudler are best friends. (Me) and Trinity Spooner were really close last year. I haven’t got a chance to talk to Sarah David or Jolie Jones that much, but I am sure that will be the same.”

Next up for Underwood is the Texas Relays Friday in Austin where she hopes to generate more college interest. She said she has received offers from McNeese State and Louisiana-Monroe and is scheduled to make a visit to Louisiana Tech in Ruston next week.

“I will do whatever they ask,” Underwood said. “I have had a lot of coaches ask me about the hammer throw. I am open to it.”