Josie Schaefer is taking a brief — well-deserved — break.
Then the ex-Baraboo High School athlete and current University of Wisconsin thrower plans to get back after it following a surreal, motivating junior season capped off by two of the biggest track and field meets in the United States.
Schaefer went up against the best athletes in the country while spending much of June in Eugene, Ore. The 2017 Baraboo graduate held her own, taking second in the shot put and 12th in the discus at the NCAA Division I outdoor championships before placing 10th in the shot put and 19th in the discus at the United States Olympic Team Trials.
“It’s been a really fun month,” Schaefer said Monday. “It all still feels surreal, especially since watching so many records being taken down at nationals and, especially, at the Olympic Trials.”
The records started falling at the NCAA championships, which ran from June 9-12 at the University of Oregon. While Schaefer took ninth in the shot put at the indoor championships in March, it was her first time competing in the outdoor event. She was ready to go after a huge season in which she set the UW and Big Ten Conference indoor records in the shot put (59-4.25), and took third in the shot put (58-4) and fifth in the discus (174-7) at the Big Ten outdoor championships.
“It was really fun to see all the hard work coming together before the national championships,” Schaefer said. “We were training really well and excited to go compete.”
Compete she did. Schaefer took center stage at Hayward Field on June 10, stepping into the shot put ring for her final throw and unleashing a toss of 60 feet, 0.25 inches to beat her personal record by nearly 16 inches.
“This season we really focused on consistency and making sure we turned any type of practice that did not start out how we wanted around into something we could work with,” Schaefer said after the event, according to the UW athletic communications office. “That mentality and training of ‘it only takes one throw’ really allowed me to stay calm after a slow start to the competition.”
That mindset led to the second-longest throw in UW women’s track history — trailing only school-record holder Kelsey Card (60-10 3/4) — and a runner-up finish at the NCAA championships. Schaefer was briefly in first place before Ohio State’s Adelaide Aquilla won the national title with a mark of 62-3.25 on her final throw.
“Surpassing the 60-foot barrier at the right time of the season like that was kind of the best outcome we could have imagined,” Schaefer said. “We were ecstatic, and it was extra special to have my mom and aunt in Eugene with me and a huge watch party at home.”
Schaefer added a 12th-place finish in the discus (184-8) on June 12. Her performances earned her a spot in the Olympic Trials, where the top United States track athletes went toe-to-toe for a place in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
“After that excitement (at nationals), it was cool to have another huge opportunity the following week,” Schaefer said. “I cannot stress enough how surreal it was competing next to all the track superstars I’ve looked up to since I was a little girl.”
Schaefer started Olympic Trials with a throw of 178-0 and a 19th-place finish in the discus on June 18.
“While I didn’t make the final in the discus, I competed well and cherished the experience,” she said. “I’m excited to get that dialed in for next year.”
She returned to Hayward Field on June 24. Her throw of 58-8.5 in the qualifying round earned her one of 12 spots in the finals, where she took 10th with a toss of 57-9.
“Our goal at Trials was to just soak everything up and enjoy the experience, and make the final in shot,” she said. “It is relieving to say we did that.”
With Trials capping off Schaefer’s season, she booked it home in time to watch her younger brother, Jake, take third in the discus and sixth in the shot put at the WIAA Division 1 state meet on Saturday. Jake will join Josie next year at the UW, where, after years of training at home together, the siblings — who each have a personal record of 186-10 in the discus — will compete on the same team for the first time.
In the meantime, things should fall back to normal for a bit after a unique year-plus that began when the COVID-19 pandemic sent Josie Schaefer home from the 2020 NCAA indoor championships and canceled the entire outdoor season.
“None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support from my family and coach, who have always put me in the best possible position to succeed,” Schaefer said. “This year was crazy with COVID and protocols, but we made the most of it and I look back on the year with a smile. I’m excited to get back to work after a few weeks of rest.”