With his collegiate career coming to a close, Devin Screen thought he had lost as his final discus throw sailed through the air at the AAC Championships in Orlando on Friday.
Screen, hampered by a torn labrum and right knee injury, took off running into the arms of his coaches and teammates as the distance of his final throw was announced.
“I thought he had it won because I hadn’t really thrown over 183, 184,” Screen said. “Even in practice, I’ll have some good throws, but we don’t measure them, so I don’t know how far they really go, but I know I usually throw mid 180’s.
“I was just like, ‘Wow,’ I mean I beat the guy by three centimeters. As soon as I heard 57 (m), I was so excited; I was ecstatic.”
After leading for five rounds with a distance of 180 feet, Luke Vaughn of Memphis stole the lead with a throw of 186 feet, 11 inches. With only one throw remaining, the senior discus thrower heaved a personal best of 187 feet to claim the conference championship.
“Coach told me in the third round that I needed to respond,” Screen said. “He said the guy who won last year came back and won on his last throw. And he didn’t do it until his last throw he came back on my mark.
“As soon as he did it, I was like ‘Aw man, I can’t believe this.’ When I was in junior college, I used to win the competition up until the last throw and then someone would always come back and win on me. So I said, ‘I’ve got to turn this up. I don’t care how the technique looks, I don’t care what has to be done, but I’ve got to come out with a victory.’”
Screen, who also placed as a runner-up in the hammer throw despite fighting through the pain of a torn left labrum, inspired his teammates throughout the weekend.
USF finished fourth in the conference championships and gained a second conference champion when senior Matt O’Neal set a new school record with a triple jump of 54 feet, 11.5 inches.
“(Screen) really got us fired up as a team and told us that we can do a lot better than we were thinking and we can hang with these guys,” O’Neal said. “I really believe he was a major contributor to how the rest of the team competed this weekend. He gave us the mindset to compete with everything we had. Most of us were seniors there and we wanted to go out the best that we could and I believe we did that this weekend.”
O’Neal, who usually competes in only the triple jump, placed as a runner up in the long jump despite having hardly practiced for the event.
With the regular season now over, Screen and O’Neal will look to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the preliminary round beginning May 26.
Following the conclusion of their careers at USF, both Screen and O’Neal said they’re shooting for the Olympics.
O’Neal, who has already qualified for the Olympic Trials in Oregon on July 7, is hoping to build on his recent personal record to make the Olympic team.
With a conference championship under his belt, Screen now shares similar goals as O’Neal.
“If I can beat the Olympic qualifying standard, I think I might have a shot at the trials and possibly going to Rio,” Screen said. “Before the conference championships, I thought I was wasting my time even thinking about it because I was dealing with injuries and only throwing 180. But after that competition on Friday, I started thinking I might have a shot at throwing for the school record.”