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ND Track & Field: Thrower Espinoza brings leadership to Irish squad

Matt Robison | Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jaclyn Espinoza has become a standout on the Irish squad this year in more ways than one. Not only is the All-American thrower starting the season with notable results, she’s also becoming a leader among her teammates.

The Oregon native has gotten off to a fast start this season with a fourth-place finish at last weekend’s Notre Dame Invitational, helping the women’s side to win the event. In the Notre Dame Indoor Opener on Jan. 15, Espinoza finished third with a Big East qualifying throw of 13.71 meters, and at the Blue and Gold Meet in December she finished second.

Espinoza burst onto the throwing scene when she qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a freshman in the discus and the shot put, one of only two throwers in her class to accomplish that feat. She also earned All-Big East honors that year with a second-place finish at the Big East outdoor championships in the discus.

Her sophomore year featured more of the same outstanding performances. Espinoza earned All-Big East honors again with appearances in the Big East Indoor and Outdoor Championships and a spot in the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

In 2009, things got even better for Espinoza. With a Big East outdoor title in the discus and a third place finish at the NCAA outdoor championships, she became the first Irish athlete to earn All-American honors in the discus.

“She is a student of her trade, and has a real understanding of her sport that helps her win even though she is always the smallest person out there,” throwing coach Adam Beltran said. “She simply refuses to lose.

“Whether it requires a 6 a.m. lift or a 9 p.m. throwing session, Jaclyn will do it without complaint and get the job done,” Beltran said.

In terms of her leadership, her positive attitude has rubbed off on her teammates and has created a sense of oneness on the squad.

“Jaclyn has been an amazing leader,” Beltran said. “She has really stepped up in helping cultivate the new freshman throwers. Even though she is one of the best in the country, she is extremely encouraging to her teammates and always takes time to help them with their throwing.”

Espinoza’s progression as athlete and as a person has not been one without adversity or challenges. Regardless, she has achieved success at every level and continues to improve.

“During her time here, I have seen Jaclyn become a very confident person as well as an athlete,” Beltran said. “During my first year here at Notre Dame, she hardly spoke and could get a little rattled at major meets. Since then, she has learned to use her voice which has allowed her to become an effective team leader and rise to the occasion of competition.”

As a senior, Espinoza will get her last crack at a national championship in the discus, her premiere event. One aspect that bodes well for her is that the NCAA Championships, should she qualify, would be a homecoming and an opportunity to have a perfect finish to a stellar career.