ON SPORTS: Gonzales grad hopes to throw her way to Rio
June 25, 2014 at 1:25 a.m.
Ariana Ince and her Rice track and field teammates were searching for a way to avoid running up a steep hill during a practice at Memorial Hermann Park in Houston.
Ince spotted an apple left behind from a picnic and had an idea.
"I said, 'Hey, if I can throw this apple through that fence, we don't have to run anymore,'" Ince recalled. "So I threw it, and it was probably one of the best throws I've ever had. It went straight through the fence and just exploded. Everyone was just kind of quiet for a little bit. My coach said, 'Well, you guys still have to run, but now you have to do the javelin.'"
Ince took her coach's advice and hopes to turn it into a trip to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The 25-year-old Gonzales High School graduate goes into Thursday's USA Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif. ranked 10th all-time among U.S. women javelin throwers.
Her throw of 189 feet, 11 inches at the Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, Ariz., in April is the best in the country since July of 2012.
"It's similar to throwing a softball or a football," Ince said. "I had the footwork down fairly well. The arm movement for the javelin is so much different. Figuring that out and not ruining my elbow at the same time was the most difficult part."
Ince relied on her background at Gonzales where she played virtually every sport and excelled in track and field.
She won four consecutive Class 3A pole vault titles at the state meet.
"It's definitely something that I think about," she said. "Was I really 15 and won a state championship and did it at 16, 17 and 18? Really, did I do that? It's almost more surreal now because I realize how young I was at the time."
Ince earned a scholarship to Rice where she set the school indoor record in the pole vault, and won indoor and outdoor Conference USA titles in the event.
Ince graduated from Rice with a degree in civil engineering in 2011 and decided to move to College Station in January of 2012 where she had been training in the javelin once a week with Texas A&M throwing coach Juan De La Garza.
Ince made the finals of the Olympic trials in 2012 and was able to stay in College Station after becoming a volunteer assistant coach in the pole vault for the Aggies, who recently won the women's NCAA championship.
"Being out of school and still trying to compete in track you have a greater appreciation for what you're trying to accomplish than I think at Rice or anytime you're competing collegiately and things are just kind of handed to you," she said. "Like here's your gear, here's the meet you're going to and we're paying for your plane ticket. You're not making quite as much of a sacrifice as when you do it on your own."
Ince is enrolled in graduate school and makes ends meet with scholarships and tutoring jobs.
She has an internship with a ergonomic consulting firm in Houston this summer and is gearing her training in the javelin toward the 2016 Olympic trials.
"It's kind of brought me back to all the other sports that I had played growing up," she said. "It's just a simple idea like how far can you throw this? It's been very fun.
"I think also what attracted me to it and what attracted me to the pole vault as well - I would argue that those are two of the most technical events in track and field. It's more than just how strong are you or how fast are you. It's also how well can you dial into the technique. There are other aspects to it that make it a little bit more challenging and a little bit more interesting."
Ince is unsure whether her success in track and field will lead to a coaching career when she's through competing.
"I'm still trying to figure that out," she said. "I love coaching and I love working with the athletes. I kind of started off at the top as far as track and field is concerned. Being a volunteer assistant at A&M is kind of the equivalent of having your first internship at Google. Do I really like coaching because I'm at the best place, or do I really like coaching itself?"
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at advosports.com