On a steamy Saturday in late April at LSU's track complex, sophomore Shelby Frank twisted and swung her arms with enough force to spin and launch her gold-colored disc further than she ever had before.
Gophers coaches cheered. Frank remained emotionless when her throw reached 58 meters or 190 feet, 3 inches to set the team record for women.
"It was super exciting," Frank said. "But I knew I had it in me — and there's more to come."
The Gophers are hosting their first-ever Big Ten outdoor men's and women's track and field meet Friday through Sunday. Frank is favored to become the program's first discus Big Ten champion since Liz Podominick in 2005, but she also has goals of regional and NCAA titles.
"I'm the type of athlete who is never satisfied," she said. "I want to keep building and building."
Frank arrived on Minnesota's campus from North Dakota last year not having competed in track and field during her senior season at Red River High School in Grand Forks. She only played basketball that school year.
"I missed track," Frank said. "I feel like having my senior year basketball season was super nice. Although COVID came the week of the state tournament and it ended on a bad note being [canceled]."
Losing her senior year in track because of the pandemic was a low point in high school, but Frank had already proved to be one of the country's most dominant girls discus throwers.
Before signing with the Gophers over Iowa, North Dakota State and LSU in November 2019, she won Junior Olympic and USA Track and Field national titles to build a gaudy résumé.
Frank comes from an athletic family. Her 6-6 father, Michael, played college basketball at Mayville State. Her mother, Stephanie, finished third for Michigan in the Big Ten in outdoor discus in 1996. Shelby Frank loved hoops, but her passion for discus throwing grew over time.
"My mom brought me to practice my seventh-grade year and I was like 'I'm not doing this,' " Frank said smiling. "But her high school coach was my coach. And I ended up throwing really well. Every year from then, I just felt more and more in love with it."
One of Frank's goals was to pass her mother in Red River's track history books. She did that in impressive fashion: four consecutive North Dakota state discus titles from eighth grade through her junior year.
Redshirting her freshman year at Minnesota was a strong possibility, though, with no senior year to help with the adjustment to college track.
But the Gophers decided going through early growing pains was worth it. Frank surprised even herself by finishing fourth in the Big Ten in outdoor discus last year and being one of six U throwers to qualify for the NCAA meet. She took third in the Big Ten indoor meet in the weight throw this year.
"Her confidence is at an all-time high and she's ready to do some special things," Gophers throwing coach Peter Miller said. "She's a great combination of emotional intelligence, incredible physical ability, but also the work ethic to put it all together. The sky's the limit for her."
Miller, who tells his athletes to stay calm while he does the cheering, knows greatness, having coached Temi Ogunrinde to become the first ever woman to win three consecutive Big Ten hammer throw titles from 2017-19.
On the men's side, Kostas Zaltos has helped the Gopher hammer throw squad rank first in the country. Zaltos won the Big Ten outdoor title last year and currently ranks No. 2 in the nation.
A setback at the Drake Relays, where she finished 12th late last month, made Frank focus even more on tightening her already strong technique going into the Big Ten meet. Deciding at the last minute, she competed at St. Thomas and won last weekend to get back on track.
Being surrounded by elite throwers and Gophers athletes is motivating for Frank, who continues on her rapid ascent since missing out on her high school senior track season.
"I'm excited for the competition," Frank said. "I feel like when it comes down to it, Minnesota throwers are ready to go out and do some work."