As a thrower coming up the ranks within the track and field program at Arroyo Grande High, Danielle Lauinger understood the expectations were set pretty high.
Of course, there’s the loftiest standard of all, 1998 graduate Stephanie Brown Trafton, who went on to win the gold medal in the women’s discus at the 2008 Olympic Games.
On the girls side alone, there have been several other prominent Eagles’ role models over the years, such as eventual University of Virginia standout Billie Jo Grant, who still holds the all-time CIF-Southern Section discus record, which she set in 2003.
Rather than being intimidated by such tradition, though, current Eagles senior Danielle Lauinger has used it to propel her career.
Lauinger will sign a National Letter of Intent today to compete for Cal Poly, Arroyo Grande announced Wednesday.
“When I came in as a freshman, I thought it was awesome,” Lauinger said of the Eagles’ lineage. “And then when Stephanie Brown Trafton threw in the Olympics two years ago, it motivated me even more. There was this girl who lived around here doing such amazing things.”
Earlier this month, Lauinger won the PAC 7 girls discus championship with a mark of 129 feet, 1 inch. This past weekend, she advanced to Friday’s Southern Section Masters Meet in that event by finishing 10th overall (third in Division 2) at 124-11.
If Lauinger places in the top five at Cerritos College in Norwalk, she’ll advance to the state championships, held June 4-5 in Clovis.
With the Mustangs, Lauinger will be competing on a partial scholarship, she said. Lauinger, who said she plans to major in biomedical engineering, said she has long desired to go to Cal Poly, also the alma mater of Brown Trafton, calling it her “dream school.”
Her all-time best in the discus is 134-2, while her personal record in the shot put is 37-11. Lauinger will most likely specialize in the discus at Cal Poly, she said, although the Mustangs’ coaching staff has also expressed interest in her dabbling in the hammer and javelin.
Also among the inspirational Eagles greats was future Arizona star Megan Howard, who has held the section’s Division 1 girls shot put record for six seasons running. Arroyo Grande has about twice the amount of discus and shot put practice rings most schools have, Eagles head coach James Brown noted.
“Our coaches here have been able to sell the kids on the fact that there’s a possibility of earning a scholarship (as a result of their performance),” Brown said.
The Eagles’ throwing assistant coach for the past five years has been 2004 grad Stephen Field, who placed sixth in the boys shot put at the state meet as a senior before going on to earn All-American honors in football at Cal Poly.
“There’s a program set in place for years where the young kids come in and see seniors not only throwing far, but doing the things it takes to throw far,” Field said. “They see what it takes to do this, and they have an example before them.”
As a junior, Lauinger truly grew into becoming a Division I-caliber thrower, Field said.
“I think last year, she just got super-serious about it and said, ‘I want to take this to the next level,’” Field said. “She’s worked very, very hard the last couple of years. Every rep of everything she was supposed to do, she’s done, and she’s done it very well — and in the process become a leader for the program and other girls.”
Lauinger “hasn’t even been competing at her peak” lately, Field said, and “if she can get back to her peak mark (at Masters), she’ll go to state.”
Two other San Luis Obispo County seniors who’ve signed with Division I universities will also be among the 12 girls competing Friday to earn the five berths to the state meet in San Luis Obispo’s Vivien Devaney (who’s headed to Notre Dame) and Atascadero’s Markita Hinton (Sacramento State).