May 24, 2012
By Ryan Minnerly
The dawn of spring on the Palouse is anxiously awaited by two-time All-American javelin thrower Courtney Kirkwood Simmons. With a wealth of experience, three national championship appearances, and a new husband, Simmons has high expectations for herself in her final season with the Cougars.
In her three appearances at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, Simmons has placed 17th, 11th, and ninth, but has higher aspirations this spring.
After a decorated high school tenure at Othello High School that included several state championships, Simmons committed to competing in the heptathlon for the WSU Track and Field team. Competing in seven events proved too much, as Simmons was limited by asthma and shin splints her freshman year, so she narrowed her focus to the javelin.
Simmons said her goals for this season include returning to the NCAA Championships and standing on the medals podium. Her experience at the national championships, she said, will play a key role in her ability to achieve her goals.
"I think it is just having one more year under my belt," Simmons said. "Especially being at Drake University (Iowa) again, where we were last year. It is nice knowing the facilities and knowing how things go."
In her junior season, Simmons threw the second-furthest distance for javelin in WSU's history at 173-feet, 8 inches. Her record stands behind that of her teammate, two-time conference champion Marissa Tschida, who remains in Pullman to train for the Olympic trials. Having Tschida's record ahead of her own is positive motivation for Simmons.
"That's a goal. It's nice to have Marissa's mark, and it's like `okay, I can get that.' It is something that pushes me," Simmons said.
Simmons appreciated having Tschida as a teammate, especially at national competitions, explaining that Tschida was a calming influence who often reminded Simmons that she deserved to be there. The two continue to train together, though Tschida is now more of a mentor than a teammate.
"Courtney is a great training partner," Tschida said. "She is talented and driven, but she still knows how to cut back and have a little fun. It is a delicate balance - having intensity and having fun and enjoying what you are doing. She keeps it right in that good balance area."
Courtney's younger sister, Christine, is now on the Cougar track and field team as a freshman. Christine was a high school All-American and has a personal-best mark of 173-9, one inch farther than Courtney's best. The older sister said it is great having her little sister at WSU so they can push each other.
Simmons married fellow WSU student Aaron Simmons last summer and while marriage has changed things, it has been for the better, according to the bride.
"If I'm having a hard day I can go home to him and talk," she said. "If there are days when I get home late, he usually has dinner ready, so I think it's a good thing!"
"I think getting married has given her a different perspective on life," Debra Farwell, the Associate Head Coach for the WSU track and field team, said. "She's an education major and is a very busy person right now. When she comes to train, it's training time, and when she goes to class, she is in class, and when she goes home, she is Mrs. Simmons. Her life has become very compartmentalized as it has progressed from her freshman to her senior year. I think it has been for the better."
When asked if her senior season will be her time to shine, Simmons said,
"Yes, I think so. That's the plan!"