It’s rare when an athlete ends a career with nothing left to prove.
There’s always something left inside they feel they could have done better or helped their team in another way.
That’s the opposite of how West Texas A&M thrower Zada Swoopes can say she left West Texas A&M.
Swoopes was the cornerstone for the Lady Buffs earning their second NCAA Division II Outdoor National Track and Field Championship last weekend.
Swoopes scored 25 of the Lady Buffs 77 total points. Swoopes shattered her own school-records and took it upon herself to improve in the hammer throw competition coming into national’s ranked 15th yet finishing fourth overall.
“Zada loves to compete” WT track and field coach Matt Stewart said. “She loves to bring a lot of energy and get the team going and the crowd going. She’s just a special competitor. What she did by scoring in all three throws is very rare, and to do it at a high level. That’s something that might not be done again.”
Swoopes ended her prolific career in the maroon and white as a 7-time national champion and 14-time All-American. She won three straight outdoor shot put championships, back-to-back discus outdoor titles while pushing her mark further each time. Last Friday, Swoopes showed her strength with a launch of 186-feet-6 inches in the discus, followed by a toss of 54-feet-9 1/2 inches in the shot on Saturday. Both new school-records, as well as new Lone Star Conference records.
“Looking at my career I didn’t see myself accomplishing all of the goals I had set,” Swoopes said. “I’ve shocked myself, but I’m proud of how my career turned out. Getting a team title was a huge accomplishment. That’s something I’ve wanted since I joined the team. To finally get a team championship was such a top of the world feeling and it was awesome to have the team to celebrate with. We all worked for it.”
To think this historic track and field career almost never happened. The multisport athlete was recruited out of Whitewright High School to play basketball for former Lady Buff head coach Kristen Mattio.
Swoopes spent the 2017-2018 playing basketball for the Lady Buffs as a freshman before realizing her heart just wasn’t there like it was for track and field.
“I felt like there was a better team atmosphere for me in track than in basketball,” Swoopes said. “Transitioning from basketball to track was difficult but I once I started experiencing that track side of my scholarship I just felt at home. I’ve never regretted my decision since.”
Stewart and throwing coach Randy Denham immediately saw what Swoopes was going to be that freshman season. Stewart had gotten Swoopes to come compete at the LSC Indoor Championships, and the rest they say was history.
“You saw the potential from Zada in that first indoor meet in 2018,” Stewart said. “We had got her to leave a basketball game and come compete at the LSC Championship and she finished in the top three without practicing. Then she won her first national title in the outdoor without an off-season. So, you knew something special was there.”
As for Swoopes legacy being left behind, Stewart says it will be hard for any athlete to equal what she has done.
“Zada is leaving behind a legacy of the best thrower we’ve ever had in this program,” Stewart said. “She’s easily the best thrower in Lone Star Conference history and I’d say Division II history. She’ll be known as a leader. She leaves behind energy and leadership that I don’t know will be repeated.”
Swoopes is equally grateful for Stewart, her throwing coach, Denham, and the track program.
“This program is the best,” Swoopes said. “I love coach Stewart, and coach Denham. Coach Denham has been like a father to me. I have loved my teammates and just getting this experience. WT is a family and I’m fortunate to be a part of the best Division II program in the country. I’m also happy I get to stay on. I’m working on my masters and will be a graduate assistant for the track team next year.”