Lauryn Carlton: Elon’s Hometown Champion

The local track and field star captured a CAA championship in 2020 and is chasing excellence in the discus.

In the spring of 2020, junior Lauryn Carlton captured her first-ever CAA championship with a personal best 45.36 meters in the discus throw. She celebrated alongside her teammates, who had lifted Elon to its first conference title since 2016.

However, the moment came as a surprise to Carlton. She faulted the first of her two throws before her championship-winning toss. Another thrower came up to her and said “last throw, best throw.” Carlton figured all she could do at that point was to stay relaxed and let it fly. Even after the throw, she figured it wasn’t enough to take the title. She walked over to the scorer’s table to get her score and her jaw dropped when the table worker pointed to her name next to the number one.

“I had no idea, no idea,” Carlton said. “I looked at my coach and said, ‘Laura, I just got first.’ I’ve never seen her smile. She had never hugged me before. I walked up to her and she gave me a big fat hug. You’ve got to be kidding me. This is crazy.”

Carlton was not on a mission from day one to become a Division I throwing champion. Instead, her talent bloomed over time through consistency in the face of adversity.

Lauryn Carlton and her mother Barb taking a picturewith her championship medal at Elon Homecoming

Carlton is as local as it gets. The junior thrower grew up just a few miles from the facilities she trains at today. Her mother Barb Carlton works at Elon. At Western Alamance High School, track and field was just one of four sports Carlton competed in. At first, it was just a way for Carlton to satisfy her busy-body nature when she wasn’t playing football, soccer or basketball.

Carlton was always naturally strong and she used that strength to lift her to second in the state of North Carolina in discus her sophomore and junior years. She then started training extra hard in throwing.

Carlton’s performance got the attention of Elon and throwing coach Laura Igaune. Her proximity to Elon made it easy for her to build a relationship with Igaune in the recruiting process. Carlton said Igaune, who competed in the 2020 Olympics Summer Games in the hammer throw, would even come out to her sporting events outside of track just to check-in.

In her senior year, adversity would strike. Carlton tore her ACL shortly after signing with Elon. Carlton essentially started behind, needing time to rebuild her knee while also learning the technique required to be a top Division I thrower. She said the silver lining was that she got to focus almost exclusively on her technique.

Carlton would have her first breakout season in the 2019-20 winter season. She threw the third-best mark in school history in the weight throw (16.69 meters) at the Virginia Tech Challenge and qualified for Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships that season.

Later that year adversity would be thrown at Carlton and the rest of the Phoenix again when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their 2020 outdoor season.

“I think tearing my ACL kind of prepared me for COVID because I had to keep my head down and just keep on working to know it’s going to get better,” Carlton said.

Through adversity, whether that be stepping outside the throwing circle, training in a pandemic or rehabbing a major injury, Carlton has learned the importance of staying calm. According to her, if you are not relaxed while throwing, it won’t go where you want it. Early in her career, Carlton relied on her raw power to stand out but now she is learning to balance power with finesse.

“You have to be graceful,” Carlton said. “If you see really good throwers, like at the Olympics, or even see my coach throw hammer, you understand that’s taking a lot of tournaments, a lot of balance and everything. It’s not just brute strength to get it out there.”

As Carlton and the Phoenix look toward the upcoming winter and spring seasons the goal is to continue growing. Training under Igaune, an Olympic-level thrower for her home country of Latvia, Carlton has seen first-hand what elite throwing looks like. She said throwing is all about chasing excellence and feeling that perfect throw.

“It’s about how good I can get. How far can I throw this thing,” Carlton said. “I just like competing and this is one of the best ways to do it at the DI level.”