Monday, July 28, 2014
With the world watching and her hometown community behind her, Raven Saunders delivered.
Down to her final attempt, the former Burke High standout let loose a shot-put throw of 54 feet, 6.72 inches to earn the women’s silver medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships last week in Eugene, Oregon.
Saunders saved her best for last with her sixth attempt moving her from bronze to silver and falling within two feet of gold medalist Tianqian Guo of China.
“I was really just trying to go for it all,” Saunders said. “My whole season just came together on that last throw. All my hard work and extra stuff I’ve been putting in. I really just had to give it my all because it was my last throw of the season.”
Four years ago as a high school freshman, Saunders was a long shot to succeed. Her sub 35-foot throws weren’t even a blip on the international radar. As the only shot-putter on Burke’s track and field team, she was forced to improve on her own.
Saunders revamped her throw and incorporated a spinning release for added power. Now, Saunders sits atop the world as one of the best junior shot-putters. Her sport has taken her across the country. She’s taken selfies on the red carpet at the ESPY Awards with the best athletes in the world. She’s circled Hayward Field draped in the American flag, and in August, she’ll begin college at Southern Illinois University on a track scholarship.
“I really never thought I’d be here,” Saunders said. “I didn’t understand how big something like this would be. It’s kind of a fairy-tale story, my whole season.”