Big shots on campus: University of Arizona’s Jordan Geist and Delaney Schnell win NCAA national titles

First Team All-American Jordan Geist won the shot put event at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Championships with a throw of 21.15 meters. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

PHOENIX – Good things come to those who practice.

And to those who sweat, and forsake indulgences common to most college students, and devote most every waking moment to their craft, and push their bodies and minds to uncommon places.

And then wake up and start practicing all over again.

Jordan Geist and Delaney Schnell, both sixth-year athletes at the University of Arizona, recently won national championships in shot put and platform diving, respectively, ending long droughts for both programs. Their titles were a long time coming.

Entering his sixth year as a Wildcat, Geist’s track and field career only could be described as exceptional, with his impact felt from the very start.

He set the NCAA freshman record for the indoor shot put at 21.45 meters and capped off a phenomenal debut season by being named the 2018 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. As his career continued, so too would the awards. He became a two-time Indoor First Team All-American, three-time Outdoor First Team All-American and was crowned the Pac-12 shot put champion in 2021.

Despite the vast amount of accolades, he had still never won a national championship, and for Geist, this season represented one last shot at winning a title that had eluded him for five years.

Determined to rectify that, Geist, 24, continued his usual dominant performances throughout the indoor season to earn another Indoor First Team All-American award, and another shot at an indoor national championship.

Delaney Schnell holds a trophy for the 2023 NCAA Championships.

Former Olympian Delaney Schnell cemented her legacy at the University of Arizona with the 2023 NCAA Championship title in platform diving. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

Entering the shot put event as the highest-ranked thrower, his time to make history had come, and he would not disappoint. Geist led the event in Albuquerque, New Mexico from start to finish to win the national championship on March 11.

“It legitimized myself after such a long career with big throws, but not necessarily a national title to back it up,” Geist said.

Geist’s win also ended a drought, marking the first time a Wildcat had won an indoor national championship since 2013. Lucais MacKay, Geist’s throws coach, spoke on the impact the win has on the program going forward.

“For the throws group and the team in general, being able to bring that in is a huge impact,” MacKay said. “I think it’s also going to help with recruiting.”

Geist was not the only Wildcat to make history in the spring. Schnell, a member of the women’s swim and dive team, also secured a historic national championship for the University of Arizona.

Schnell, 24, found herself in a similar position as Geist. She entered this year as a sixth-year senior with many impressive career accomplishments, yet no national championship. Both athletes were able to take advantage of the NCAA’s COVID-19 policies, allowing them to compete an extra year.

Like Geist, Schnell made an immediate impact on her program. Schnell’s first-year performances earned her the Pac-12 Women’s Freshman Diver of the Year honors.

Schnell has won six PAC-12 championships in diving events and holds two school records at Arizona. She also earned a silver medal in the 10-meter synchronized platform event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games before taking home three straight Pac-12 Diver of the Year awards in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

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At the end of this year’s women’s swim and dive season in March, in Knoxville Tennessee, she added an NCAA national championship in platform diving to her list of accomplishments.

“It was a really special experience,” Schnell said. “It was a lot of close calls all through my time here. I was runner-up multiple times. I think having my last experience being the thing that I have been working for all six years since I’ve been on this UofA team, to end it with a national title is a really special experience and makes it that much more rewarding.”

Schell’s national championship was the first diving title for the program since 2015. It also marked the first time a Wildcat had won a national championship in a platform event since Ben Grado won in 2012 for the men’s team.

“It’s special to be a part of that history,” Schnell said.

Schell shared that winning a national championship around the same time as Geist was a rewarding experience.

“I think it’s really cool that we are both sixth years and for both of us to end our collegiate careers with national championships, I think that’s a really cool experience to get to share,” Schnell said. “I think we both can say that was a special and rewarding way to go out.”

Caleb Jones KAY-lib jones
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Caleb Jones expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Jones, who is assigned to Cronkite Sports this semester, has previously interned at Times Media Group.