The tryout for the Nebraska track and field team was a bit shaky.

Actually, Chase Wolinski is more blunt about it: "I probably did really terrible. In fact, I know I did."

Wolinski went to college like most, with a sole focus on academics. But the Lincoln Northeast graduate missed competing. She wanted to give track another go after her first year in college.

But first, she needed to impress at a tryout for potential walk-ons. The workout included jumping, sprinting and throwing.

Wolinski laughs about it now, specifically Scott Cappos' reaction to her tryout.

"'Wow, that was one of the worst athletic performances that I've ever seen,'" the Nebraska junior recalls the throws coach saying. "And he's laughing with me."

Wolinski thought no way she was going to make the team after that.

Yet, a softball throw — it's part of the tryout — was enough to grab Cappos' attention. Three years later, Wolinski is among the top women's javelin throwers in the country. She ranks 10th nationally and first in the Big Ten Conference.

On Friday, Wolinski, thanks to what she calls her "corn-fed arm," will aim for a Big Ten outdoor championship in Iowa City, Iowa.

"I really went from a place of I did not even think I was going to make (the team), to I was just really glad to be on the team and have the teammates I did," Wolinski said. "This whole thing has really been a dream."

Wolinski threw shot put and dabbled with discus at Lincoln Northeast. She also played volleyball. Because javelin isn't a high school event, she didn't touch a spear until she made the Nebraska team.

And that's when the transformation began.

Wolinski had to work on body movements. She'd walk around with a javelin and work on her foot movements while walking across campus.

Elbow surgery led to a redshirt season in 2016, but by 2017, Wolinski was competing and traveling with the team. She threw a season-best 157 feet, 7 inches as a redshirt freshman, and placed sixth at Big Tens.

Last year, Wolinski threw the javelin 166-11, which at the time, ranked seventh in school history.

"My expectations were pretty much just do as well as possible and hopefully place better in meets and to throw better in meets," Wolinski said of her mindset entering this season. "I wouldn't say that I had goals as far as seeding in the Big Ten or seeding in the nation, but it's just kind of worked out really well. All of my goals were more critiquing myself trainingwise and getting my form down better."

With more reps came better results, and this year at the Texas Relays, Wolinski unloaded for a mark of 177-0, which ranks sixth in school history and has her as the top seed for the Big Ten outdoor meet.

"It made me feel that I could do this, and I felt more like I belonged, I would say," she said. "It was really a confirmation of hard work and knowing that I am able to compete with my peers.

"This year, I feel like I'm finally able to push really hard with the technique ... so it's just really trusting my training finally."

Wolinski is quick to credit those who helped her. If it wasn't for the Susan Thompson Buffett scholarship, college may not have been an option, she said.

Former Husker Sarah Silverstone, who holds the school javelin record (184-0) was a big influence, as are current javelin throwers Brittni Wolczyk and Sydney Otto.

The coach who saw a flash of potential during that tryout: He's been there for every step, too.

"I really owe a lot to him, first of all for giving me a tryout and giving me his time," Wolinski said of Cappos. "When you have a lot of athletes already competing in the Big Ten, competing nationally and internationally and just to be able to give a walk-on your time and be able to work with me was just so important, not only as an athlete, but as a person, as a woman."

The Big Ten outdoor meet starts Friday and runs through Sunday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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