When Mia Estes visited Utah State and Cache Valley on her recruiting trip, she immediately fell in love.
“It was a lot like Montana, so it felt like home,” Estes said.
As much as she loved it, though, Estes did not want to become an Aggie. Why? She was scared. After all, she would be following in her famous uncle’s footsteps by attending Utah State and she did not want to let the Estes legacy down.
Wayne Estes was a 6-foot-6 All-American basketball player for Utah State from 1963-65. In his final game for the Aggies, Estes became the first player in school history to eclipse the 2,000-point plateau in a career, pouring in 48 against Denver on February 8, 1965, in the George Nelson Fieldhouse.
Later that night, Wayne and a few of his friends stopped at the scene of a car accident near campus. While crossing the street, Wayne brushed against a downed power line and was fatally electrocuted.
Now, 50-plus years later, Mia Estes is forging her own legacy at Utah State.
“I didn’t want to come here because I was afraid that I would let my uncle Wayne’s legacy down, and I didn’t want to let anybody else down, so I was scared, more than anything, of failure,” said the redshirt senior javelin thrower. “So, I was more pushed toward not coming. I didn’t want to let people down because those are pretty big shoes to fill, but at the same time, when I came on my recruiting visit, it felt like home. It felt right compared to all the other visits, so in the end, I went with my gut and I came here.”
That decision has paid off in a gigantic way for Estes and Utah State’s track and field program. After all, the native of Anaconda, Montana, holds the school record in the javelin with a mark of 51.38 meters, set earlier this season at the UC Irvine-hosted Spring Collegiate Classic.
What does that school record mean to her?
“More than I can put into words, honestly,” Estes said. “Being Wayne’s niece put a lot of pressure on me coming in, and at first, I was really intimidated by it, but now I’m leaving my own mark at Utah State, so I couldn’t be more proud of that.”
Her throws coach feels the exact same way.
“Mia has meant a lot to the Utah State program, and she has come a long way from when she came from Anaconda,” said Matt Ingebritsen, Utah State’s head track and field coach. “When she showed up, she was a skinny little freshman with a big attitude, but I liked her from the start. She did take a couple of years to allow herself to let go and become the thrower that I always saw. Once that happened, she became hard to beat.”
Estes, who missed the majority of the 2017 season after suffering an elbow injury, is certainly ending her Utah State career in style.
After all, she is one of a school-record 22 student-athletes to qualify for the NCAA West Preliminary Championships, which will be held May 24-26, at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Califfornia.
“Looking back, my time at Utah State has been a roller coaster ride for sure,” she said. “I started off rocky my freshman and sophomore years, and then it seemed like things were just going up and up. And then I got hurt, so I kind of bottomed out. Then, I recovered, and my season started off well again and I started going back up and I was on an all-time high and broke the school record. Now, I’m a little set back with an injury, but as with everything, I’d say the highs were definitely way better than the lows, so it made it all worth it.”
What expectations did Estes place on her own shoulders when she arrived in Logan?
“At first, I put too much pressure on myself,” she said. “I had these expectations that I needed to throw big and be this big dog on campus, and I realized that being a Division I athlete, there are girls just as good as you are, so you have to work harder. It was actually really hard for me.
“Once I finally realized that I was better than what I actually believed – I went through a whole bunch of phases of emotions where I was a big fish in a little pond, and then I was a small fish in a big ocean – I knew I could compete with the best of them if I work hard. So, I went through a whole range of emotions, but ultimately I felt pretty good to be here, and I felt like I belonged here toward the end.”
The daughter of Ron Estes certainly has belonged at Utah State.
Estes was a four-time letterwinner in track and field and an 11-time letterwinner in both volleyball and basketball at Anaconda High School, where she recorded the 15th-best javelin throw in the nation as a senior in 2013.
“Mia was a great javelin thrower in her own right out of high school,” Ingebritsen said. “The mark was the first thing I noticed, and then when I would talk to her on the phone she was not afraid to talk to me and ask questions. I could see that she had the perfect set-on-kill attitude that is essential to be a great javelin thrower. Also, her being such a great student makes my life so much easier because I never had to worry about her in that regard. She is sort of the model now for what I look for in high school throwers.”
After capturing the state title in the javelin as a prep senior, Estes made her way to Utah State, where as a freshman she finished 36th in the javelin (42.81 meters) at the NCAA West Prelims. The following season, she placed 38th at the West Prelims (42.88 meters).
As a junior in 2016, Estes garnered first-team all-Mountain West honors after capturing the javelin title with a throw of 49.40 meters at the Outdoor Championships. She then went on to place 32nd in the event at the NCAA West Prelims with a mark of 44.79 meters.
Estes, a four-time NCAA West Prelims qualifier, will be looking to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Finals for the first time in her career when she competes at 1 p.m. MT, on Friday, May 25.
Estes has excelled both on and off the field of competition during her time at Utah State. After all, she has garnered academic all-Mountain West honors three times and Mountain West Scholar-Athlete accolades once. She has also been tabbed to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Team on three separate occasions.
While her javelin career is nearly over at Utah State, Estes is not going anywhere anytime soon due to the fact she was recently accepted into the nursing program.
“She is also an outstanding student and one of the best captains of my team that I could ask for,” Ingebritsen said. “Mia has left her mark on Utah State and the throws program, and she leaves such a big hole in the team next year that I had to recruit multiple girls to come in and replace her next year. I’m going to miss her a lot.”
What will Ingebritsen miss most?
“Honestly, I will miss her personality and determination that is infectious to the other members of the group, and the rest of the track team,” he said. “She holds herself to a very high standard, and she demands that out of those around her as well. That quality is hard to replace. Mia is one of a kind.”