Larry Cruikshank / Special to the Home News
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 | 7:51 p.m.
When LaShante Ellison began competing in track and field, she never imagined it would lead to a spot on a Division I college roster.
The sophomore thrower for UNLV began her athletic career in high school as a basketball player. Then midway through her a freshman year at Sierra Vista, the school's track and field coach approached her.
"He said, 'You're pretty big. I think you can be a good thrower,'" Ellison said. "So I started and it went from there. I stopped playing basketball my junior year to do track full time because they saw some talent in me and thought I could get a scholarship and go onto college with it."
As a senior at Sierra Vista, Ellison finished second at state in the discus, throwing 121 feet. It wasn't enough to immediately earn her a scholarship, but UNLV coaches saw enough in Ellison to invite her to walk on.
As a freshman a year ago, she competed in all of UNLV's indoor and outdoor meets. She routinely cracked 120 feet in the discus, the event she was expected to specialize in. But Rebel coaches liked what the saw in Ellison's hammer throw, which she never tried until joining UNLV.
In her first season competing in the hammer, Ellison threw for more than 140 feet. Now, she has thrown for more than 150 feet in practice although the Rebels' outdoor season has not yet begun. She is expected to do the event exclusively this season.
"It's all about technique," Ellison said. "For the hammer, you have to have strength and speed as well, but I've been working on my technique and all the fundamentals I didn't really get my first year doing it."
UNLV coach Yvonne Scott-Williams said she liked Ellison's potential in the hammer.
"I think that is an area she will excel (at) the most and be able to score and be competitive in our conference," Scott-Williams said. "As she matures in this event, she will be one to look at in our conference, one that will be ranked up there pretty high."
Scott-Williams was impressed enough by Ellison's dedication that she awarded Ellison a partial scholarship before this season.
Ellison said the gesture made her want to work harder.
"When she told me about the scholarship, it just felt like, 'OK, I'm doing enough that they see talent in me and improvement,'" Ellison said. "Definitely by the time outdoor season is over, I want to put points on the board. I have two more years of eligibility, so the sky is the limit."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.