ERIE — When Punxsutawney native Katie Monoskey arrived at Penn State-Behrend three years ago, the Lions' track and field team didn't have a hammer thrower.
Head coach Greg Cooper, who recruited Monoskey, approached her to see if she would be interested in competing in the event.
Monoskey had experience in the three high school throwing events — discus, shot put and javelin — and wasn't against trying new things. She also wanted to focus on something more than the discus, which was her favorite event at the time.
"When I came into college I put a lot of pressure on myself with discus," Monoskey said. "Hammer was new and exciting, and I didn't have expectations."
At first, Monoskey was a bit apprehensive about the new event, but was told the hammer would fit her ability perfectly.
"It was scary, especially because they're kind of dangerous to pick up. But they seemed exciting," Monoskey said. "I spin very naturally; it kind of comes to me. It was exciting once I finally got going with it."
Even without having a chance to throw the hammer in practice, Monoskey picked up on the event quickly. The first meet she competed in the hammer, she finished second, and Cooper immediately took notice.
"To pick that up so quickly, it just shows the athlete she is," Cooper said. "Her work ethic is above average. Everything she does, she does with excellence."
Monoskey's hammer throw success was just part of what has been a record-breaking three years with the Lions. During that time, she has set school records in the indoor shot put (34-10), indoor weight throw (42-8), outdoor discus (118-3) and outdoor hammer throw (137-4).
"She's done a tremendous job," Cooper said. "She's probably without a doubt the most prolific thrower we've had at least on the female side."
All those throws led up to April 29-30 in Newport News, Va., when the Lions competed in the Mason Dixon Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships. During that meet, Monoskey won both the discus and hammer and placed fourth in the shot put. Those performances led to her becoming the first Behrend boy or girl to be named the conference's Athlete of the Year.
"It was a surprise because I don't want to ever think about getting those things," Monoskey said. "It was exciting. My teammates were very supportive and excited."
Monoskey, who also represents the women's indoor and outdoor track and field teams on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, scored 24 of her team's 126 points during the Lions' third-place finish as a team. She earned 10 points apiece by winning both of her signature events, but also wanted to compete in the shot put, even though she wasn't slated to prior to the tournament.
"Basically, she threw it because she knew she could help her team out," Cooper said.
The Lions, who upped track and field from a club sport to varsity sport in 1998, hadn't had a thrower like Monoskey before. And with one year left, the two-time women's outdoor track and field team Most Valuable Player has one last goal to accomplish: A trip to the NCAA Championships.
It is unlikely that she'll have the distances to advance to this year's national championships, but she hopes to make the cut next year.
"I think a big key is to train a lot in the offseason and get stronger and faster and more explosive," Monoskey said.
After seeing what Monoskey has accomplished over the years, Cooper isn't counting her out for a NCAA Championship berth during her senior season next year.
"She's really over the last 2 1/2-years become more and more proficient at the technique of throwing, and now, she's stronger," Cooper said. "I would say she has a good chance of being a national qualifier by her senior year."
Even with that goal in mind, reaching nationals isn't the end-all, be-all for the easy-going Monoskey. She chose Penn State-Behrend for a reason — mostly because of her mathematics major with a business option, but also because she would have an opportunity at competing in a sport she loves for four more years after high school.
As she continues to pile up school records and Most Valuable Player awards, she's enjoying every minute of it.
"The main thing for me is just to have fun," Monoskey said. "I'm at a Division 3 school. There isn't that much pressure, and I just want to enjoy it while I still can."