Driving to be the Best

Feb. 14, 2011

Big Ten Black History Month Website

By Larry Watts
Contributor, BigTen.org

Before she ends her Indiana University track and field career, there is one last goal Faith Sherrill would like to accomplish — win an NCAA title.

“I’ve been a Big Ten Champion (twice) and an All-American (three times),’’ says Sherrill, a fifth-year senior weight specialist. “I have worked my way up through the Big Ten and then became an All-American three times, which is huge, but I still want to push myself to be the greatest I can be and that would be an NCAA title.’’

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native’s drive to be the best, preferably in the shot put, in the NCAA actually began two years ago. That’s when she elected to take her junior year off to build her strength in the weight room.

“It’s very tough to go through the same training as everyone else, but you don’t get to show it,’’ she says. “There were a couple of meets where I could throw (as an independent), but it’s just not the same as competing against other teams.’’

That year of training immediately paid off in her second meet of the 2010 indoor campaign. That’s when she produced a school-record throw of55-1.5 in the shot put at Purdue. Building off that momentum, she won the weight throw with a school record 66-9.25 and took runner-up honors in the shot (52-0.5) at the Big Ten Championships. She would then earn All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships, placing seventh in the weight throw and 11th in the shot put.

She continued her assault on the Hoosier record books during the outdoor campaign when she broke the school’s hammer throw mark with a toss of 191-9 at the Billy Hayes Invitational. One week later at the Big Ten Championships, she avenged her shot put loss during the indoor championships to Illinois’ Aja Evans with a winning effort of 55-10.5, second-best in Indiana history. She also took fourth in the discus (165-7) and hammer (180-9). After sharing Big Ten Field Athlete of the Championship honors with Evans at the indoor championships, Sherrill was named the Big Ten’s Field Athlete of the Year following the outdoor season.

“I wouldn’t say Aja and I were rivals, but we did want to beat each other,’’ Sherrill says. “She had won it (the shot put) previous years and I was just waiting for my opportunity. I was just happy to get the Big Ten title; it didn’t matter who I beat.’’

Sherrill was a three-sport athlete coming out of Northop High School and had several colleges vying for her talents in volleyball, basketball and track and field.
The 5-foot-11 standout eliminated volleyball early in her selection process before narrowing it down to possibilities for basketball and track.

“I finally decided on track because I like the feeling of it being both an individual and a team sport,’’ says Sherrill, who as a senior was third in the shot put and fifth in the discus at the state meet. “I knew even if my team wasn’t successful that I could still be successful based off the work I put in. Just because your team doesn’t win doesn’t mean you can’t win. It all comes down to the amount of work you are willing to invest.

“I knew I wanted to go to a big school, like in the Big Ten, ACC or SEC, but one that wasn’t far away. Indiana just seemed like the best fit.’’

But to participate in the weight events at Indiana, Sherrill had to introduce herself to two new events, the 20-pound weight throw (indoors) and hammer (outdoors).

“I had no idea what they were until I got to Indiana,’’ she says. “It would take time to learn but I had to figure it out. It was frustrating because you can fall very easily, but I eventually caught on. The weight throw is more of a strength issue while the hammer required a better understanding of technique.’’

The year off from competing certainly helped in her development. She currently hits the weight room four times per week for two hours each session.

By extending her stay at Indiana to five years, the elementary education major was able to do her student teaching this past fall without worrying about it conflicting with her competition schedule.

“I was teaching in a multi-age classroom for first and second grade,’’ she says. “I absolutely loved it, that’s my favorite age group.’’

An Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Sherrill says her desire to head into the field of education started as a teenager, when she used to play ‘school’ with her younger sister and a group of her friends. She later worked two summers as a nanny for a five-year-old and did a lot of baby-sitting as well.

“I just love being around children,’’ she says.

Even though this will be her last season of competition at Indiana, Sherrill, who took 10th in the shot put at the USA Senior Championships last summer, wants to see how far she can take this sport.

“The next step is being an NCAA Champion, and I have a lot of confidence in myself,’’ she says. “That’s what’s important to me right now and we’ll see what happens after that.

“Of course, I would like to go to the Olympic Trials. I’ll just keep working hard and see if I can make it.’’