SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Today may be the last day Cody Roberts throws a discus in competition.
The Normal Community High School graduate hopes his best has been saved for the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships, which open today and end Saturday at Sacramento State University.
"It's a good end to my career," said the University of Kansas senior, who is seeded 20th in tonight's 9 p.m. (Central time) qualifying round based on his season best of 57.37 meters (188 feet, 2¾inches).
Roberts, who placed 20th last year, hopes to be among the 12 qualifiers for Friday's 7:15 p.m. (Central time) final.
"It usually takes about 55 or 56 meters (180-5 or 183-9) to qualify," said Roberts, whose career best of 188-11 was set last year.
"Finishing in the top eight to earn All-American status is my ultimate goal. I definitely would like to hit 190. It's been a big goal of mine."
As a 6-foot-3, 205-pound NCHS senior, Roberts set the still-standing Pantagraph area all-time best of 186-6. He has added 50 pounds of muscle since then to better fling the college disc, which weighs almost 14 ounces more than the 3-pound, 9-ounce high school disc.
California has several discus venues famous in the throwing community for aiding winds off the ocean, but Sacramento isn't one of them.
"It evens out the playing field a little bit," Roberts said. "The guys out west get to throw in wind all the time. Being from the Midwest, we don't get to throw in big winds."
Roberts learned in last year's NCAA meet to make every throw count.
"I don't have to do anything extra that I haven't been doing all season," he said, "just get an easy technical throw in and build up from there, tweak my technique and hopefully hit a good one."
There to cheer him on will be his parents, Kevin and Diana, and his sister, Sarah, a sophomore member of the NCHS track team this spring.
"They're coming out for four days or so," said Roberts, who wants a job as a strength and conditioning coach after graduating in December.
"It will just be a good time to spend time with them. It's the best track meet that I've been in. Sarah didn't get to come last year. I'm excited for her to see the meet and have it motivate her with her track (career)."
Roberts was motivated to enroll at Kansas by throws coach Greg Reynolds, who left after Roberts' sophomore season to coach at Kentucky.
"It was a scary summer when he left," Roberts said. "I trusted the coaching staff to bring in a new coach who would understand me and help me."
That person turned out to be Ukrainian Olympian Andy Kokhanovsky.
"We have clicked really well," said Roberts, who has come to appreciate Kokhanovsky's European prospective on throwing.
The fact Europeans have fared better than Americans in international competition was viewed by Roberts as an endorsement of Kokhanovsky's methods.
"You have to go with it and trust it," Roberts said. "There were rough days. It has given me a broad spectrum of training types and techniques and made me better overall."
Among the things Kokhanovsky emphasizes are being quick and fluid in the ring while keeping the hips and shoulders aligned just so during the spin.
"It's really a technical event," said Roberts, whose discus advisor in high school was former Olympia and Abilene Christian star Candi Evans.
When he placed fifth in the state meet his senior year after being seeded first, she accurately predicted, "This is just the beginning. He has such a future ahead of him, it's unbelievable."
Four years removed from that heartbreak, Roberts knows she was right.
"That was a rough time," he said. "I've definitely gone past that. I have had some great things happen since then and done well.
"I've accomplished goals each season: all-conference honors and making it to nationals. The state meet doesn't mean as much when you've been in national competition."
Interestingly, none of the four men who beat Roberts in the 2003 state meet qualified for today's competition.