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Anya Tonga dominates OVC in time at SEMO
In her three years at Southeast, track and field athlete Anya Tonga has racked up many accolades. Tonga was named OVC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year back-to-back times in 2019 and 2020. She is also the three-time OVC Indoor Weight Throw Champion, winning the event in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Winning three championships in a row in any event is no small feat. Tonga’s personal record in the weight throw is 64-7.25 feet, or 19.69 meters, set at the OVC Indoor Championships in 2020. To put that into perspective, the world record weight throw for women is 83-11.75 feet, or 25.60 meters, set at the USAF Indoor Championships in 2017.
“I’m really grateful — going into conferences, I always doubt myself, but that’s when Coach Eric [Crumpecker] talks me through it,” Tonga said. “I’m representing my coach and teammates, so I do it for them.”
Originally from New Zealand, Tonga took up track and field in high school at Del Mar High School in San Jose, Calif. Tonga received many offers to throw at the collegiate level, but ultimately decided SEMO was right for her.
“The teacher from my weight training class in high school was the head coach of the track team and asked me if I could throw,” Tonga said. “I chose SEMO because of Coach Eric. He is just a humble guy, and I wanted to have a coach that was understanding.”
Like many other student athletes, Tonga has had to learn how to balance track and field with her studies. Between lifting two times a week, throwing five times a week and going to class, it has been difficult, but Tonga has managed it well.
“I take being a student first over athletics. There is stress from assignments, but I give quality effort to both school and practice,” Tonga said. “I’ve been doing it for so long that I’ve just gotten used to it.”
A good way to relieve the stress of balancing sport and school for Tonga is being around her teammates at practice or on the bus going to meets.
“My best memories are from bus rides to meets because we can joke around and not have to worry about track for a while,” Tonga said. “We just talk about random things, and I think it’s made us stronger as a team.”
Being around her teammates and coaches for so long, Tonga has developed good relationships with them.
“We have a good relationship as a team. I couldn’t ask for better,” Tonga said. “We always push each other to do better in our sport and also outside of track.”
All athletes have their ups and downs athletically throughout their collegiate careers, and Tonga is no exception.
“The best part about track is that something is always changing. If you don’t do so good in one event, you can move on to the next one,” Tonga said. “The worst part is when you’re not seeing improvement in your skills, but that’s when Coach Eric is there to pick you up.”
Tonga has improved in each of her years at SEMO, finishing top five in 14 times in 2020 along with becoming a leader for the track team.
“I’ve improved mentally and physically at SEMO, and my technique has gotten better because I understand what I need to do to get better,” Tonga said. “I’m kind of like the big sister of the track team, and I make sure everyone is on track.”
As of print, the 2021 OVC Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field seasons have not been cancelled due to the novel coronavirus. As 2021 is Tonga’s senior season, another OVC Indoor Weight Throw Championship would be the icing on the cake for a career as a Redhawk.