Senior shot putter set to blow away competition
To be able to come back from multiple knee surgeries and still dominate the competition is what senior thrower Cameron Cornelius has accomplished this season in the shot put.
After missing all of last season, Cornelius came back strong to win his third American Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship title in his third year of competition. In 2016, Cornelius decided to redshirt the indoor season in an attempt to get more time to prepare for a run at the AAC Outdoor Championship. In two seasons of competition, Cornelius had fallen short of the Outdoor Championship by a total of four inches.
What started as a vengeance year ended as a scrapped season when prior injuries started to impact Cornelius’ performances.
“I woke up one day and felt a really sharp pain in my knee,” Cornelius said. “I had torn my meniscus somehow. I knew exactly what it was because it’s happened two other times. I tried to throw one meet at UTSA and I was throwing 62 feet prior to my knee injury, but that meant I could only go 56, 57. So we decided to just go ahead and trash the whole season and get prepared for this one.”
Cornelius came back in peak form, opening up the indoor season with a throw of 18.02m. At the time, this was the eighth best throw in the nation and set the standard for his season. Winning every meet he competed in, Cornelius easily won the conference title with a throw of 18.43m.
Despite this, Cornelius missed out on a trip to College Station for the AAC Indoor Championship. His throw at conference only put him at No. 31 in the country and athletes are required to land in the top 16 to qualify for nationals.
As with every season, the athletes who missed out on nationals went right to work prepping for the outdoor season.
In his very first meet, Cornelius had three throws better than his personal best, 18.36m — a record he set his freshman year. On the day he topped out at 18.88m, it became the third best throw in the country.
“(I was) impressed but not surprised,” assistant coach Will Blackburn said. “We’re at that cusp of being really good. He’s just got to stay a little more consistent at it right now. We’re going to keep things as simple as possible through the next couple weeks. Once he gets to hopefully 63, 64, then we’ll have to move to another step or technique.”
A man on a mission
Cornelius said with that one throw, he fell in love with the sport all over again. Suffering from constant knee pain, he was considering if it was worth it to continue the sport. But now that he’s come back strong, Cornelius has his mind set on following through with his vengeance season.
His goals go further than finally winning the AAC Outdoor Championship.
His goal is to earn First Team All-American status and to medal at the World University Games in September. Because of that, his coaches have actually delayed when Cornelius will peak. They need him to be in top form when the team travels to Taipei, Taiwan to represent Team USA.
Ironically, his coaches believe he has almost recovered too well, moving so fast in his technique that he was missing his shots. But now, Blackburn said, Cornelius has been able to slow it down in order to keep his body in line and perfect his shot.
Cornelius has one thing in mind when he reaches the conference final: to win it on the first throw. He has all the motivation in the world and faced adversity to get to this point. He has the confidence that the hard work he and his coaches have put in will see him through conference and onto his greater goals.
“All-American first and foremost,” Cornelius said. “I really don’t care what distance it takes to get there. If I throw 61 and get it, that’s fine. If I have to throw 64 to get it, that’s fine. I might have to have a perfect throw to get there, but I think it’s doable.”