Coming to Stanford was on sophomore thrower Jillian Camarena's mind all through high school. She found her chance with a spot on the track team and in her second year on the squad she has already become No. 2 all-time for Stanford Women in the shot put. "I've always wanted to go Stanford," she says, "it was my number choice and track just gave me an opportunity to make that dream come true."
A two-year All-American from Woodland High School in Woodland, CA, Camerena was no stranger to success - she was the 1999 California state champion in shot put and runner up in discus and the 2000 state champion in discus. The Sacramento Bee named her their Track Woman Performer of the year and after competing with the US Junior National Team she earned a berth to the Junior Pan American Championships in Argentina where she won the gold medal in shot put with a throw of 15.9m (52-2ft).
She was unsure about how far she could go in the sport, but she met associate head coach Robert Weir and he helped spark her interest in competing at the college level. "I didn't know what to expect from track in college," she comments, "but Robert has really helped me learn that there is always more to come and I can definitely keep improving throughout the year."
She quickly adapted to Stanford's fast pace and busy schedules and found a comfortable spot on the team. "Track is a such a great sport and it's definitely more of a team atmosphere than people think," she remarks, "there's always a lot of individual pressure but we all support each other especially within our event group."
After an impressive freshman season, where she set a freshman school record with an NCAA automatic throw of 53-9 (16.38m), placing third at Pac-10 championships, she is still just as focused on meeting her own expectations. Describing her preparation she notes the importance of concentrating on what she wants, "Before every throw I just try to relax and focus on what I have to do and try to meet the goals that I've set for myself. Being a sophomore there's a lot of trying to figure out where you are academically and more pressure and expectations that I put on myself to be better as an athlete."
She didn't waste any time this year either, beginning the indoor season with a provisional qualifying throw of 54-8 (16.66m) and remaining consistent, qualifying in every indoor meet of the indoor season. The Cardinal women's team had their best showing at NCAA Indoor Championships (5th) since 1992 this year, with all six Stanford competitors coming home as All-Americans. Camarena placed 5th with a throw of16.46m (54-0ft) to earn her All-American spot and she went right to work on the outdoor season.
In the Stanford Spring Opener she easily qualified for the NCAA's with a winning shot put throw of 53-4 1/4 and went on to win the next meet, the California Invitational, with a 50-0 3/4 throw, an NCAA provisional and a Pac-10 qualifying throw. She's excelled at adjusting to college life, she's one of the nations top shot putters, and she's just getting started. Camarena has found that Stanford isn't like every other school but it is definitely the best fit for her. "Its different and its hard, but at the same time its manageable. Doing track at Stanford is great and I love it - there's nothing else I'd rather be doing."