The journey began when she was a teenager in middle school.
It hasn’t been a straight line, but DeKalb graduate Rachel Dincoff has dedicated herself to that journey completely, and more than a decade later, the destination is in her sights.
Dincoff will compete in the women’s discus throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials Friday and Saturday at Eugene, Oregon. A top three-finish would put her on the United States team that will go to the Tokyo Summer Olympics next month.
“I’ve wanted to go since eighth grade, since I started track and field,” she said. “I put it in my heart that I wanted to make the Olympic team. Pretty much everything I’ve done since then has been part of the journey to make the top. It’s always been a goal.
“I don’t know if this is the year for it to happen. I’m doing everything I can to make it happen but I’m planning on trying for another couple of Olympics.”
Dincoff’s hopes are high after she threw a personal-best 64.41 meters (211 feet, 4 inches) at the USA Track & Field Throws Festival at the University of Arizona in early May. That throw also surpassed the Olympic standard of 63.5 meters, and made her eligible to make the U.S. team.
“It was like a check mark, getting the Olympic standard,” Dincoff explained. “That says you have thrown far enough to be considered to go the Olympics.
“Now that I do have that, I have to get top three at the trials. That could be at any distance. Of course I want to throw farther, but placing is the most important thing.”
Five competitors eligible to make the team will compete this weekend.
NBC and NBCSN plan to show portions of the trials live. Other events will be streamed live at NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC sports app.
The women’s discus preliminaries will begin at 4 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time Friday, with the finals set for 6:42 p.m. PDT Saturday.
Dincoff was the girls state champion in the discus for DeKalb in 2012. She went on to a successful college career at Auburn, where she repeatedly earned All-Southeastern Conference and second-team All-American honors. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science.
It was then that she began working with Alabama throws coach Doug Reynolds in an almost unheard of War Eagle/Roll Tide pairing (“It’s a big sin,” she says with a laugh). Reynolds took over as head coach of the track and cross country programs at New Mexico State in 2017.
“It was the right move. He’s been great,” Dincoff said. “We’re very similar in how we train and how we think. He can really relate to me. He can understand my thought process.
“He was a really good discus thrower himself (a Pac-10 champion at Arizona in the ’90s) and he has a lot of experience that I can pull from.”
Like most athletes before the biggest competitions, Dincoff is tapering down her workouts to be at her best.
“Currently I’m peaking, so everything is very explosive and very quick. I’m not doing a crazy kind of volume, very low repetitions. That’s just trying to get my body to its best performance for the weekend,” she said.
The rest of the year, the training goes in cycles. She does Olympic weightlifting and power lifting for strength. She works on strengthening her core, and does sprints and other cardio work to maximize her conditioning.
And there is throwing. Lots and lots of throwing the discus, which weighs 1 kilogram (about 2 pounds, 3 ounces) and measures 180 millimeters across (a little more than 7 inches).
“It’s a lot of throwing, a lot of repetitions,” Dincoff said. “The throwing is very important, getting my body used to the feelings, knowing what my body ought to feel and knowing if I’m off or not on a certain day.”
She also uses video to break down her throws.
“I’ll have the video and I can see things that maybe I was doing and I’ve gotten away from, so they can be put back in, or the other way around, I can see something that wasn’t so great and I can see the improvement. It’s been a really good tool.”
She’s learned not to depend on the video too much, however.
“I try not to do too much of it, because I don’t want to get caught up in what I see,” she explained. “I can focus more on the feeling of the throw. I don’t want to get where I’m too much of a perfectionist and not being relaxed if I’m trying to hit specific positions.
“It’s very dependent on rhythm and timing, so even if I’m a little off, you can still create a good throw if it’s connected and fluid. If I look too much at film, I’ll try to hit the positions correctly but the fluidity of the throw might be off or disconnected. It’s finding a good balance of using video as a tool, which I think I’ve gotten a lot better at.”
She’s also better at going easier on herself.
“I remind myself this is a journey and to have fun,” Dincoff said. “I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself in past years to find perfection. I don’t want to say I was taking it too seriously, but I have to be relaxed and I have to have fun and enjoy the moment, be in the moment.
“If I’m anxious going into a throw, I’ll remember to take a deep breath. You might see me smile when I walk into the ring and that’s telling myself to relax, and reminding myself to enjoy these moments, because they go by so quickly. If I press too hard I’m not going to get the throws I’ve been practicing, because I don’t practice like that.”
Dincoff has family and friends rooting for her back home, which she finds helpful.
“I’ve poured everything I’ve had into this. I have so many friends and family from back home that have poured into me,” she said. “This just shows what they’ve given me and blessed me with. I’m really excited to make this happen and celebrate with everybody.
“It’s been a very interesting journey and I’m very blessed for it. I’m just excited for the whole experience and to have so much support behind me is amazing.”
Dincoff is as ready as she can be for Friday.
“I feel I’m in a great place,” she said. “I’ve had the best practices of my life this past week. I know my technique is on track, my physical fitness is on track. The best thing I can do now is make sure that I’m mentally on track.
“I’ve been doing a lot of reading and bettering my mental fitness. I just want to better myself and prepare in all ways possible.”