SIOUX CITY -- Kingsley native Kiana Phelps threw the discus farther than any girl in Iowa high school history, and for a third year is on a University of Oregon track team that usually ranks near the top nationally.
Phelps was part of an NCAA national title team as an Oregon freshman and, now into the outdoor schedule of the track and field seasons, has had recent throws that have proven her 2019 is shaping up really well. She's also feeling good about how she's helping the team keep racking up meet points.
"I'm the happiest I've ever been," she said.
"The reason I'm so happy is that it has been such an adjustment, and I'm starting to see that pay off."
A daughter of Laura and Scott Phelps, the Kingsley-Pierson graduate and all-time Iowa record-holder in the discus (179-7) during her school years was drilled on technique by her father, a two-time state discus champion himself, also at K-P.
Kiana Phelps, whose three siblings, Krista, Colton and Nick, were also state-caliber discus and shot put performers, had her pick of scholarships from all over the nation. She is very glad she selected Oregon, even if it is far away from Plymouth County.
"It is a really scary thing to leave everything you've ever known," she said.
Phelps said her parents plan to see her at about five meets this year, and last year a family from Kingsley made a surprise stop in Eugene to watch a meet.
Phelps said there were definite adjustments to joining the Ducks team, since "starting from Ground Zero, it was hard." She's committed to working on specialized weight lifting to augment her throwing technique practicing.
The Oregon Ducks are a top national track team, having won the 2017 national championship, and the roster is filled with former prep state champions. A fellow Ducks discus performer, Ronna Stone, is a daughter of former Dallas Cowboy All-Pro Ron Stone.
The outdoor season will play out differently, as the Hayward Field venue that's held Olympic Trials meets and the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships for six straight years through 2018, is out of commission during a major renovation. That means Phelps won't have an 2019 home outdoor meets in Eugene, Oregon, but she's still determined to do well, regardless of location.
"I think most of us are more excited for the opportunities that the new Hayward will bring," she said. "We're hosting the IAAF World Championships in 2021, so that will be an event of a caliber Eugene has never seen before. Personally, my dream right now is throwing out of that new stadium in the Olympic Trials."
After this year, Phelps will have one more year of eligibility for outdoor track and two years for indoor.
Scott Phelps said after a freshman year surgery and a change in technique for Kiana, he figured it could take time to see major strides competitively in in the Oregon city of 170,000 people dubbed Tracktown, U.S.A.
"I think she is mentally ready to reach the goals she has set for herself. To make up for her lack of size, she has done a good job of improving her explosion with sprints, power cleans (weightlifting) and plyometrics," Scott Phelps said.
Kiana said people who don't really know the discus think a person spins a few times and chucks the implement.
"The precision of the movements you are making is so complex," she said.
"I am closer to the ultimate throw, but it takes thousands and thousands of repetitions ... to get that muscle memory to take over."
As an Oregon freshman, Phelps finished fourth in the Pac-12 Championships in the discus (165-6) and 13th in the shot put (44-5) and qualified for the NCAA West Regionals in the discus.
Then earlier this junior year for the indoor season completed on March 8, Phelps had a best of 52-6 for the shot put in an inside Seattle venue, which was a personal record by a whopping three feet, placing her fourth in Oregon history in that event.
She had thought a good college shot career would include a throw of 51 feet, so "it is time to set new goals," Phelps said.
The outdoor season began March 22 with a San Diego State University meet, and the discus result caught Phelps off guard. She threw over 170 feet four times and landed a best of 179-7, for third place all-time at Oregon.
It was her best discus mark of to open any season, whether in high school or college, by a whopping 10 feet. The school record is 184-8, and her 179-7 is only five feet away.
"I was shocked honestly with my opener. I thought 170 (feet) would be a good opener," she said.
She is gearing her efforts to peak in late May or early June, at the time of the PAC-12 conference and the NCAA meets qualifying period.
Phelps admits the Olympics occupies some of her thoughts, since discus thrower may peak in their late 20s and go well into their 30s.
The time period to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympics Trials Meet begins on May 1 of this year, so a strong season this year could put her on the list. She said a low-to-mid-180s throw typically gets a discus thrower into the field of 24 women for that Olympics Trials Meet.
"I am young," said Phelps.
"But for now I am enjoying the progress I am making and the support of my teammates. They are my rock here."