For the 23rd consecutive year, St. John’s University track and field was represented at the NCAA championships. The 4×400-meter relay team finished 23rd at the NCAA East Regional, and thrower Danette Hinton capped off a tremendous senior season with a 29th-place finish (out of 48 competitors) in the hammer throw.

Making Hinton’s accomplishments all the more impressive is the fact that she joined the team as a walk-on freshman year.

“By the time she was a sophomore, she developed to the point where we put her on scholarship,” said Red Storm head coach Jim Hurt. “This year, she’s gone from being not that competitive in the hammer throw to one of the top 30 in the Eastern United States.

“We got her to believe she could do some of these things that physically she has the talent to do,” he added. “As a coach, we’re telling them from the time we get them what they can achieve. Somewhere along the line, they come and say, ‘Coach, I can do this.’”

Also competing at the East Regional was Hinton’s twin sister Denise, a thrower for Louisiana State University who also began her college career as a walk-on. Danette Hinton, a finance major, has been balancing training with an internship on Wall Street. The morning after her competition was done, she was on a plane back to New York to go work.

Hurt, who feels very positively about the reconfigured Big East, hopes exposure to the highest level of competition will continue to motivate his athletes. He also has a bumper crop of recruits arriving this fall, including Nyla Woods, a thrower with international experience.

Nurturing young talent requires patience, but it’s that much more rewarding when a breakthrough happens. Commitment and confidence are key words for St. John’s track and field athletes.

“To compete at the highest level of college competition is the goal. To do so was great to see,” said Hurt. “Our job as the coaches and the staff is to set the bar high and to get our kids to believe that they can do it. It’s wonderful to see kids go from one level to another and achieve those things.”