Former Greyhound leading UCI throwers
ATASCADERO – The University of California at Irvine indoor track and field program kicked off its season this past weekend in Washington at the inaugural Spokane Indoor Challenge and saw several great performances, but none better than by former Greyhound Deandra Tyler.
The Atascadero alumna, who graduated in 2020, was a double champion on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 14, winning both the women’s shot put and the weight. Not only did Tyler take home first in both events she competed in, but she also began her ascent up the Anteater all-time ranks, joining another former Greyhound in Bri Villanueva.
Tyler began her afternoon throwing the weight, which for the uninitiated is essentially a cannonball with a triangle handle on top of it, and launched her way to a 54-03.25 (a personal best), which moved her up three spots on the all-time list and into fourth in school history. The current school record in the weight was set in 2019 and is held by Barbara Coward at 58-04.75, while Villanueva currently sits in second at 58-01.25.
For her second and final event of the afternoon, Tyler threw the shot put and once again set a new personal best, defeating all other competitors by 3 feet with a mark of 48-00. Once again, the former Greyhound found herself in the record books, this time further solidifying her spot with the third-longest throw in school history and is now just two feet from the top spot.
While Tyler is now shining brightly for the Anteaters, her story begins in the dark. The now college junior graduated from AHS in 2020, meaning she lost her entire senior track season due to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I started throwing the shot my sophomore year of high school and only got into it because our throwing coach [Darvell Cullors] reached out to me,” Tyler told the Atascadero News. “I started off my track career running freshman year but did not enjoy it. Once he got me out there throwing, I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Tyler showed promise in her first two years with the Hounds, finishing as the runner-up in the shot put and third in the discus at the 2019 CIF West Area meet, but was counting on her senior year to put up the marks she needed to get into a college that she wanted. After losing her senior season, the young thrower was looking for options when she got a call from Villanueva encouraging her to come to Irvine.
“We didn’t have a senior year because of COVID but we competed for two weeks before it happened, so it was really a bad situation because I didn’t get the marks I needed to transfer into a college for throwing,” Tyler explained. “Then Bri [Villanueva] at UCI reached out and told me to come on a visit. So, I visited, and ended up signing here.”
However, even with a place to call home, Tyler was still unable to compete as the pandemic also claimed the 2021 season, meaning she had now taken as many years off from competition as she had under her belt completely. Despite the setbacks, she remained focused and dedicated herself to the strength program and emerged as someone to watch in her sophomore season.
“The coaching style is different at the college level,” Tyler noted. “Because there is a whole program built around it. My high school coaches knew how to throw, but now I have a program where I have to lift weights and throw two events, and it has helped me greatly, especially in the shot put. When I first came in I was throwing 40 feet but now my longest throw is 48 feet.”
In her sophomore season, Tyler was finally able to get back out on the field, put up the third-best shot put mark in school history, and cracked the top 10 in the weight, but still hadn’t been through the real college experience as all her classes were in the hybrid model without the in-person aspect available to her.
“We didn’t have any classes that were in-person, so balancing school and practices was easier. It wasn’t much of a college experience,” she said. “Now as a junior, though, it feels like real school because I have in-person classes rather than online or hybrid models.”
Finally, in her junior year in college, Tyler’s life is back to that of a normal student-athlete and the results look like they are going to start pouring in.
The Anteaters will continue their indoor season next weekend when they make a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The indoor season is relatively short and will end at the NCAA Championships on March 10, and the former Greyhounds plans to be there throwing her best.
“I just want to keep working hard and keep PR’ing and increasing my throws so that I am at my best when we get to the conference championships and hopefully I can also be number one in program history,” Tyler said with a smile.