Bienvenu earns second-team All-America honors again at NCAA Outdoors

St. Mary’s product Maria Bienvenu throws the javelin Thursday night at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas. (Photo courtesy of UL Lafayette Athletics)

AUSTIN, Texas – When she began her collegiate track and field career, nobody outside Natchitoches could have imagined Maria Bienvenu might become a conference-champion javelin thrower.

Only a scant few could forecast that she could qualify for NCAA regional competition at any point in her time at UL Lafayette. Not even the most optimistic of that handful of supporters would have considered her potential to reach the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and it was simply beyond reason that Bienvenu would at any point in her career become an All-American.

There was nothing to indicate she could, except the potential that some insightful locals saw, and coaches at NSU and UL Lafayette were willing to gamble on. She decided to go away to school and began her quest with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

She defied all those odds at the end of her freshman season in 2021. Bienvenu, a St. Mary’s basketball and softball standout with next to no experience in the javelin when she left town, won second-team All-America honors as a freshman with a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

Then the odds got even steeper and her chances more remote. An elbow injury early in her sophomore season forced career-threatening surgery. The challenge to regain her top-flight performance level was increased.

Thursday night, Bienvenu became a two-time All-American, finishing 13th at the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the javelin, recording a 169-3 mark on the first of her three attempts. Her placement earned her second-team All-America status.

Nebraska’s Rhema Otabor won with a 195-2 career best throw. By finishing 13th, Bienvenu beat throwers from Power 5 programs like Duke, Auburn and Georgia.

But most of all, she beat the odds. Again.