St. Mary’s product Maria Bienvenu breaks conference record, wins gold medal

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – Natchitoches native Maria Bienvenu made a stunning debut in college track and field in 2021, then had a huge challenge in 2022.

Thursday, the St. Mary’s graduate, who helped the Lady Tigers win a 2020 state championship in basketball, recorded another milestone on her road back from elbow surgery last year. She broke the Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Championships meet record in the women’s javelin with a winning throw of 173 feet, 5 inches.

Bienvenu, the daughter of Russel and Amy Bienvenu, only began throwing the javelin after the state championship basketball season in her senior year at St. Mary’s. Tutored by Corwyn Aldredge, who during his competitive days at SMHS in 1981 broke a national high school javelin record owned by Terry Bradshaw, Bienvenu showed great potential competing in the district, regional and state meets for the Lady Tigers.

She received a scholarship to throw for the Ragin’ Cajuns and after a fall of training, was a freshman sensation in 2021. Bienvenu capped her college debut by earning second-team All-America honors with a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, throwing 175-1.

The next spring, she threw 175-9, ranking in the NCAA’s top 10 before experiencing elbow problems at the Texas Relays that halted her season and ultimately required major “Tommy John” surgery a year ago in Birmingham. It required months of rehabilitation but she was up to the challenge and made that obvious in her first competition this spring with a 168-1 throw.

She’s been consistently impressive this spring and rose to the occasion Thursday at the conference meet to win the Sun Belt Conference javelin crown.

Bienvenu will compete later this month at the NCAA East Regionals, aiming for a top 12 finish to return her to the NCAA Outdoors in early June.

Photo:  courtesy UL Lafayette Athletics