One false step puts record-setter Josie Natrasevschi on path to NCAA championships

Working with former football player Courtland Clavette helped Josie Natrasevschi improve. (Courtesy Brown University)

It sounds absolutely outrageous and beyond comprehension.

A freshman in her first collegiate discus event breaks both a school and conference’s record.

It’s comparable to a rookie running back rushing for 300 yards in his first NFL game to break Adrian Peterson’s record.

It’s like scoring 101 points in a first NBA game to break Wilt Chamberlain’s record.

With her very first throw on March 27 at the Raleigh Relays on the campus of North Carolina State, Josie Natrasevschi did the unthinkable. Her first discus throw of 176 feet, 5 inches was both an Ivy League and Brown University record.

“That was a phenomenal meet for me,” Natrasevschi said.

Her entire outdoor season turned out to be phenomenal, culminating with Natrasevschi qualifying for NCAA Track and Field National Championships in Eugene, Ore.

A freak injury years before as well as a training session with a future NFL player played a huge part in Natrasevschi’s rise to being one of the best female collegiate discus throwers in the country.

Going into high school, most kids don’t have a clear vision of what lies ahead. Natrasevschi was different. She had a goal, an aspiration that centered around what she enjoyed doing so much.

“I was going to the Olympics for jumping,” Natrasevschi said.

She started track and field at O’Dea Elementary, in Fort Collins, Colo. By qualifying and winning the district track meet in the triple jump, she found something she loved. In junior high Natrasevschi did a little bit of everything: ran hurdles, jumped and threw the shot put. The triple jump was her favorite and best event.

“In high school I was sure I was going to be a jumper,” Natrasevschi said.

That was until she stepped awkwardly off the bottom step of her house just before the start of her freshman track season at Fort Collins High School. Natrasevschi had walked those steps thousands of times but it only took one time for her to tear tendons in her right foot.

“When the cast was put on my foot, I was crushed. I couldn’t run,” Natrasevschi said.

To not put too much pressure on her foot, Natrasevschi gradually returned to the track by focused on throwing events.

“When you have a passion for something you strive to be the best at it,” Natrasevschi said. “I had a passion for the triple jump in junior high. Because of that I wanted to be the best. Being the best means going to the Olympics.”

As it would turn out, Natrasevschi became a 2014 Colorado state champion in both discus and shot put.

At Brown, Natrasevschi spent the indoor season just throwing the shot put. For the spring season Natrasevschi planned to compete in both the shot put and the discus. She was struggling mightily though with her discus technique.

“I was getting increasingly frustrated,” Natrasevschi said. So she turned to Courtland Clavette, not Brown’s track coach, but a senior inside linebacker for the Bears who also spent four years throwing for the track and field team. During the days leading up to the Raleigh Relays, Clavette and Natrasevschi got together and rehashed her technique. Clavette made major adjustments. Clavette has since signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a long snapper.

“He gave me cues and it just clicked,” Natrasevschi said.

With Clavette looking on in Raleigh, Natrasevschi’s mark of 176-5 was a foot and half better than the second-place finisher. Her throw also broke a 15-year-old Raleigh Relays record.

“I cannot thank Courtland enough because he recognized what I was doing was wrong,” Natrasevschi said. “He brought my technique back to where it was and improved upon it.”

Natrasevschi qualified for nationals with a thrown of 177-3. She was fifth among a field of the best 48 discus throwers east of the Mississippi at the NCAA East Regional, and she finished 16th at the NCAA championships with a throw of 168-7.

Not bad for a freshman.


 Above: Brown’s Josie Natrasevschi used tips from former Brown linebacker Courtland Clavette to increase to record-setting discus throws. (Courtesy Brown University)




Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand is a freelance writer based in Ocala, Fla.