By ANDY WOLF
When it comes to big-time meets, Austin Combs is a big-time performer.
He’s won two Division II national titles that way.
“I’m just a competitor,” he said. “I really like competing with other people and I think the way we do our lifting program, that helps us peak at the right time.”
One more huge peak this week could add another title.
The University of Findlay senior thrower and Liberty-Benton grad has qualified for another NCAA Division II National Championship track and field meet and is hoping for more big things.
Nationals begin Thursday in Kingsville, Texas and run through Saturday.
Combs is seeded sixth in the hammer throw at 64.84 meters and also 24th in the shot put at 17.30 meters.
His two championships have come in the indoor season where he’s the two-time defender in the weight throw.
UF head coach Blaine Maag knows Combs always has a little extra saved in the tank.
“There’s more pressure on the kid but he knows how to compete when it matters,” Maag said. “Two indoor meets in a row he’s come in not the best and won it.
“I think he’s going to show up and maybe he could do something crazy. It’s hard to predict.”
Combs was only the third seed in 2018 and second this year when he won his titles.
While the weight throw is indoor-only, his track record of out-performing his seed stems way back to his first national meet.
Combs was the last man in at 16th for the weight throw at the 2016 indoor championships as a true freshman.
He finished 12th and earned his first All-American nod.
“I got my throw off and it was a fun experience to go down there,” Combs said. “I was young and it was fun to compete with the better throwers and that gave me a good foundation and feel what it’s like to throw at a national meet.”
Combs earned his only outdoor All-American status in the hammer throw by setting a new PR (64.82m) by three meters.
Though he is a senior, this won’t be his last national meet.
Combs took a redshirt outdoor season last year to align it with the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
His focus now has been on the national meet.
For it, Combs keeps his goals high but reachable.
“If I get a really good throw, I may be able to go 70 meters on meet day,” he said of the hammer throw.
That’s also in the ballpark of top seed and Angelo State freshman Decio Andrade at 70.42 meters.
Combs is thinking of distance as a product of technique.
He’s spent the past few weeks fine-tuning his form with quality reps and positions.
As the meets are mostly physical, the mental side is just important.
“I try to stay relaxed and don’t worry too much about how practices have been going,” Combs said. “As long as technique is fine, I’m not too stressed about nationals.
“With (Maag’s) coaching and our training, the distances will be there when we’re there.”