In 2021, the Big Ten was the epitome of excellence in women's collegiate shot putting, placing 1-2-4-6-8-9 in the NCAA final at Hayward Field.
Emma Callahan is looking forward to learning from and competing against the best in the future as the Shenango senior and one of PA's all-time best in the event signed Friday with the University of Iowa.
"I'm real excited just to learn and watch from the best and be able to compete with the best of the best," Callahan said when asked about joining the shot-laden Power 5 conference. "I think, in the end, it will make me a better athlete and a better thrower so I am really looking forward to the experience."
Currently No. 8 on PA MileSplit's all-time indoor and outdoor lists in the shot put, the senior has a lifetime best of 49 feet, 3.5 inches from this year's WPIAL championships. Earlier in 2021, Callahan was part of a show of Pennsylvania shot putting prowess, finishing a close third in a 1-2-3 PA sweep at the 2021 Adidas Indoor Nationals
"If you would have said that to like 7th grade me, she would be like, 'No way, you're joking,' " she said of her lofty ranking on the state's all-time lists. "It's so humbling to see where I started from to where I am now. To God be the glory. I could never have imagined being where I am. I want to thank everyone. Thank all my coaches, all my private coaches I have worked with through the years. It's an amazing feeling for sure."
As a freshman in 2019, Callahan had the longest puts by a ninth-grader in the country indoors, reaching 41-4 at the TSTCA indoor final in February, and was No. 9 outdoors with a then PR 41-5.25. She continued to climb the national rankings, finishing as the No. 1 sophomore outdoors in 2020 and the No. 2 junior in the past outdoor season.
"It really did," Callahan said when asked if her big put at the 2019 TSTCA meet made her change her HS goals. "Going into 9th grade, I wanted to hit like 41 feet. Our school record was 40 feet, and I wanted to hit that by junior year. That was my original goal.
"And then I hit 41 my freshman year. If I put more time into this in the gym, if I put more into practice, let's do this. Let's get some results. It definitely was something that was needed. That throw. It only happened once or twice my freshman year, I was not consistent, but it showed I could do it. And it definitely pushed me to where I am at today."
Callahan noted she went into the recruiting process with "a very open mind," having taken an official visit to North Carolina before being a guest of the Hawkeyes in Iowa City last weekend.
"I just fell in love with the atmosphere and the campus itself," she said of the Big Ten school. "It's so beautiful there with the river going through the campus. Meeting all of my (future) teammates and Coach Ray (Robinson), I felt at home. More than I had at any other college. I kind of just knew."
The feeling of a home away from home was reinforced with Slippery Rock University's men's basketball team in town for an exhibition game with the Hawkeyes.
The top returnee by feet in Pennsylvania and the No. 3 shot putter back nationally, Callahan said she has been working through cycles of lifting and throwing for the past two months. Her goal for the 2022 seasons is to be "better, stronger and faster."