St. Mary’s alumnus Maria Bienvenu picked the perfect time to rise to the occasion Thursday evening, and now the Natchitoches native is an NCAA Track and Field All-American.
Which absolutely nobody saw coming.
BIenvenu, a freshman for the UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, and also a first-year competitor in the sport, earned second-team All-America accolades by finishing 12th in a field of 24 national qualifiers in the women’s javeiln at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in “Track Town USA,” Eugene, Oregon.
She came in ranked 23rd in the field with a personal best mark of 167-10 achieved two weeks earlier at the NCAA East Regionals. On the second of her three attempts Thursday, Bienvenu launched a school-record 175-1 throw at fabled Hayward Field, the American mecca of the sport. It will host the USA Olympic Trials later this month.
The mark ranked her fifth in the competition through the first 12 throwers, and the second and more experienced dozen recorded throws that lowered her overall ranking to its final 12th place finish. It was an astonishing accomplishment for a first-time competitor in the sport, and that event.
Bienvenu had never tried throwing the javelin until after she led St. Mary’s to the 2019 Division IV state basketball championship and was named the state’s Class A Most Outstanding Player as a senior. The daughter of Russel and Amy Bienvenu began training with her dad’s lifelong friend, former high school national record-holder Corwyn Aldredge, and went to UL Lafayette with a competitive best under 130 feet in her only high school meet.
After the pandemic, she resumed training in Lafayette last fall and opened this season with a personal best of 147 feet. She extended that by 28 feet four months later with Thursday’s performance.
Bienvenu’s throw edged the previous ULL school record of 175-0 set in April by senior teammate Claire Meyers.
She became UL Lafayette’s first female All-American in the javelin and the first female All-American for the track and field program since Morgann Leleux finished second overall for the Ragin’ Cajuns in the pole vault in 2016.
Photo: Jamie Schwaberow, courtesy Ragin’ Cajun Athletics