Twice is nice: Quincy native Benjamin wins pair of NAIA indoor track and field national championships


Marian University's Arriana Benjamin, a 2017 graduate of Quincy High School, won the weight throw and the shot put at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championshps in Brookings, S.D. | Photo courtesy Marian athletics

INDIANAPOLIS — The wait was excruciating.

“Extremely nerve-racking,” Arriana Benjamin said.

The first to throw in the final round of the shot put at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships, the Quincy native and Marian University senior unleashed a season-best toss of 14.97 meters. It vaulted her from ninth place to first place with eight competitors still to throw.

Although Benjamin was in prime position for a spot on the podium, her second national title of the weekend hung in the balance.

“I did not move. I did not smile,” Benjamin said. “I was completely focused on each girl’s throw. You’re hoping they do well, too, but you’re still wanting first place.”

With each passing throw, that became more of a reality.

Briar Cliff’s Hope Wagner threw 14.26 meters on her first attempt and never improved, finishing fourth. Indiana Wesleyan’s Princess Kara hit 14.46 on her third attempt and was short of that mark on her remaining three throws. Cumberland’s Daveina Watson went into the final round with the lead at 14.72 meters, but she fouled on her final three throws to take second.

“When it came out of my hand, I knew it was a good throw, but I didn’t realize it was going to put me in first,” said Benjamin, who helped Marian finish fifth as a team during the national championships held the first weekend in March. “When it did, it was like, ‘All right, we’re here, but there are eight other girls who have a chance to move past me.’

“I knew I couldn’t celebrate too soon. After the last girl threw, I immediately knew I had this in the bag. My teammates and my coaches all came around and we were all celebrating. It was awesome.”

It completed quite a weekend at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings, S.D.

Benjamin, who finished in the top 12 in the shot put and discus in Class 3A at the state track and field meet for Quincy High School as a senior in 2017, wrapped up her indoor collegiate career with two national championships. She won the weight throw title to go with the shot put crown.

She will leave Marian with at least three national titles — she won the 2022 outdoor title in the shot put —  and six All-American efforts, but could add to those totals this spring during the outdoor season. She got off to a solid start last weekend at the Montreat College Open in Montreat, N.C.

Benjamin won all three of her events, taking first in the shot put (13.95 meters), the discus (45.1 meters) and the weight throw (50.38 meters). It’s part of the process of pushing herself and seeing the results.

“I’ve been working so hard for this, and for that hard work to pay off, I’m just like, ‘Yesss!’” Benjamin said of the indoor national titles. “PRing in each event … that’s the best feeling. My goal was to do my personal best, and however the placing falls, that’s what happens.

“Doing my best is my goal each time.”

In the weight throw, her throw of 19.36 meters came on her third attempt in the finals, and she maintained her place despite Haistings’ Kiara Anderson hitting a mark of 19.32 meters on her fourth attempt.

“When I let go, I knew it was going to be a big throw, but I didn’t know it was going to be that big a throw,” Benjamin said of her winning toss. “Going in, I wanted to hit a high 18 or a low 19. I would have been happy with that, but a 19.36, I was surprised but also happy at the same time. I knew all along I could do it. I just needed to show it.

“In the meets leading up to it, I was PRing each meet. That progression just continued on.”

It made chasing the shot put title the next day a little more strenuous.

“There was definitely pressure,” Benjamin said.

She qualified ninth for the finals — only the top nine advance — and was still in that spot with one throw to go.

“I knew it was all or nothing at that point,” Benjamin said.

Then came that excruciating wait.

“Regardless, it was a good weekend and I was going to be happy,” she said.

Becoming a two-time national indoor champion made it all the better.

“I just want to make my family back home proud, my teammates proud and my coaches proud,” Benjamin said. “With each plaque I get and each medal I earn, I believe I’m doing it.”

She wasn’t alone in climbing to the top of the podium. On the men’s side of the NAIA indoor championships, Marian’s Isaiah Tipping won the weight throw title and Jacob Netral won the shot put.

“We called it a Marian sweep,” Benjamin said. “That catapulted us into the outdoor season.”

When that season ends, the working world awaits.

Benjamin has plans to work for Damar, a company designed to assist children, adolescents and adults with developmental, behavioral and intellectual disabilities. She will be working with children on the autism spectrum and those with behavioral concerns.

“I also want to stay in the track world, coaching somewhere or assistant coaching,” she said. “I want to stay involved in athletics.”

With a resume like she possesses, her input and coaching will be welcomed anywhere.

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