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Mya Lesnar’s journey to national title started with belief

Courtesy+of+CSU+Athletics
Courtesy of CSU Athletics

Six years ago, Mya Lesnar didn’t believe she could throw shot put at the collegiate level. Now, she’s an NCAA champion.

On March 9, Lesnar threw 18.53 meters in Boston, making her the first woman to win an indoor track and field championship at Colorado State. Winning was the easiest part. Committing her life to a sport she didn’t know she’d be successful at was the most difficult thing of all.

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“A lot of people told me, ‘Hey, if you stick to this, there’s something here,’” Lesnar said. “But you don’t really believe it until you until you do it — and you’re like, ‘Wow.’”

Lesnar’s first year at CSU didn’t go as well as she’d anticipated. Adjusting to a new campus after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and little competition gave Lesnar many obstacles to overcome.

“She’s the kind of person that has got the right mentality behind it. She’s got great genetics, great athleticism and great skills. She’s got everything that she needs to make it happen. Now, her journey just needs to start.” -Maggie Ewen, three-time NCAA track and field champion.

Lesnar decided to hit the weight room — hard. Her muscles grew and her confidence with them. By the start of her junior year, she reached the numbers professional throwers aim for.

“And that was a turning point — confidence in the weight room and confidence at practice,” Lesnar said. “Just knowing, ‘Hey, you know what? I can do this.’ And so I go out my first meet this year and PR.”

Lesnar set her shot put personal record at 18.50 meters in December 2023 at the Mines Alumni Classic. Two months later, she threw 19.10 meters and claimed a Mountain West championship title. Two weeks after that, she made history in Boston.

Lesnar’s early podium success in the 2018 Minnesota State High School League State Track and Field Championships didn’t matter to her. She didn’t believe she could be great. Instead, Lesnar said she was convinced she would play college volleyball. Her plans fell through when her attempts at getting offers came up short.

“I was waiting for some calls or schools to reach out, and I got nothing,” Lesnar said. “I was a middle hitter in high school. I was tall for the position. But girls won’t even look at you if you’re under 6 foot.”

Fortunately, three-time NCAA track and field champion Maggie Ewen came into Lesnar’s life.

Ewen, currently ranked fourth in the world for shot put, was a 2013 Minnesota state champion for shot put and discus and a thrower at Arizona State. She began training with Lesnar her sophomore year in private sessions under Ewen’s father. At the time, Lesnar didn’t realize she would follow a path strikingly similar to Ewen’s. Ewen’s leadership made throwing a heavy ball go from something Lesnar was just good at to something she fell in love with.

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“I definitely expected that she was going to do impressive things,” Ewen said. “She’s the kind of person that has got the right mentality behind it. She’s got great genetics, great athleticism and great skills. She’s got everything that she needs to make it happen. Now, her journey just needs to start.”

Training with Ewen sparked a new belief in Lesnar’s mind. She told herself she was going to throw shot put at the professional level.

Even today, Lesnar said she credits her reason for throwing to the days of training with Ewen.

“It wasn’t until I met Maggie that I was like, ‘This is cool,’” Lesnar said. “She’s like a superhero to me. She’s strong and confident, and I want to be like that. … I want to throw with her one day. I want to be as good as she is and be one of the top girls in the world.”

In her junior year, Lesnar claimed the 2019 MSHSL State Track and Field Championships in shot put. From that victory, her journey started. She knew she had what it took to compete at the next level.

As a transfer from Arizona State, Lesnar said she thought she would be a Sun Devil her entire college career. One coaching change later, her plans changed as well. However, she still had options to explore once she decided to transfer. Even before Lesnar’s commitment to ASU, CSU’s Brian Bedard was the first coach to give her an offer.

“I got back in the transfer portal, and (Bedard) reached out,” Lesnar said. “That’s definitely a scenario where I’m like, ‘Listen, you never know who you’re going to be friends with.’”

The strong relationship between Lesnar and Bedard immediately flourished and provided her with the building blocks to be a successful thrower. Lesnar grew from questioning her abilities in her first year as a Ram to possessing an unwavering belief in herself to excel. Bedard watched firsthand as Lesnar made the necessary changes that ultimately led her to the national title.

“It’s been a work in progress,” Bedard said. “Last year, she struggled with getting too stressed out in competition. She just really improved her ability to stay relaxed, control her excitement level (and) not get distracted in competition. So that’s a testament to her and the work she’s put in to improve in those areas. … She’s become a more mature competitor.”

Ewen was the first to say Lesnar’s journey just needed to start. If Lesnar hadn’t made the decision six years ago to pursue a throwing career, she would never have stood atop the podium in Boston. With two more years of college eligibility, there is far more Lesnar can accomplish even before a professional career.

After Lesnar’s winning mark, the person who once didn’t think they’d throw at the collegiate level now proudly claims the title of national champion.

“A lot can happen when you believe in yourself,” Lesnar said.

Adam Gross can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @agrose_22

Interested in more sports content? Sign up for Ram Report here for weekly CSU sports updates!

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