Burke High graduate Raven Saunders added yet another title to her ever-growing list of accomplishments on Saturday night, winning the national championship in the shot put at the USATF Junior National Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Saunders out-performed 14 other competitors from across the country, including several college athletes, to claim the title with a winning throw of 55 feet, 10¼ inches.
"In my mind, this was one of her best performances because she really had to grind," said coach Herbert Johnson. "She was really tested tonight, and she had to really fight from behind. I thought she showed great poise and confidence and she is really happy about the outcome."
Saunders qualifies for team USA for the World Junior Championships later this month back in Eugene.
After throwing 47 feet, 5¼ inches on her first attempt and fouling on her second throw, Saunders took the lead in the event with a throw of 53 feet, nine inches.
"I did not detect any nerves (early on)," Johnson said. "In fact, she was very relaxed. She got off to a little slow start but she steadily brought it along and put it all together."
Aaliyah Pete of Colorado State University threw 53 feet, seven inches, to put some pressure on Saunders, but Saunders went 54 feet, 9¼ inches on her fifth attempt to seize control of the competition.
For good measure, Saunders saved her best for last, blowing away the field with her winning throw of 55 feet, 10¼ inches.
Pete finished second, followed by Katelyn Daniels of Michigan State in third.
The championship effort caps a whirlwind couple of weeks for Saunders, who was named the Gatorade national girls track athlete of the year in a ceremony at Burke on June 25.
Saunders set the South Carolina prep record in the shot put in May, and set the national record in the event with a throw of 56 feet, 8¼ inches in April.
Saunders will attend the ESPY Awards in Hollywood on July 16.