TWIN TITLE TOSSES: Diggs signs with NAU, adds throwing crowns to trophy case

Millennium senior Alaina Diggs, right, stands atop the podium May 4 after winning the Division II state shot put title May 4. She is flanked by Dysart senior Kiara Anderson, at her left, and Marana Mountain View senior Grace Hala’ufia and Centennial senior Jamia Clark, at her right. [Submtted Photo]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Alaina Diggs could not ask for a better final week as a high school athlete.

She claimed the state Division II discus title on May 1 with a personal record throw of 133 feet 8 inches. Diggs announced her commitment to Northern Arizona University’s track team May 2.

On May 4, the Millennium senior added the Division II shot put crown, with her winning toss of 46 feet 9½ inches besting the competition by a dominant six feet. Not bad for a baller.

“I’m a really big competitor, so when I started winning I knew I could do this,” Diggs said. “But track probably didn’t become a priority until last year when I really started training.”

Add those golds to a 5A state basketball title this winter and a Division I shot put crown from 2018 and it is clear — Millennium’s first athletic family needs a bigger trophy case.

And who knows what the display will look like in a couple of years, when Diggs actually concentrates on throwing full time and has Division I college-level coaching and training.

Last year Diggs said she competed in club basketball and club track. She concentrated on track more this year and realized her future might be in track after the 2018 state meet.

Diggs’ winning throw in the shot was the best in the state this year, and her discus toss put her first. She climbed the ranks despite a late start in mid-March caused by the basketball title run and injuries.

“She’s excited to see how far she can get with just focusing on track. With the strengthening programs they had and the training, I think she’ll be amazing at discus and shot, probably even javelin. She’s done the javelin previously, just not this year,” Millennium track coach Jasmine Easley said.

Easley was in her first year coaching Millennium after coming over from district rival Verrado. She said one of the schools recruiting Diggs was okay with her continuing both sports.

That was less of a possibility as she realized the time commitment required for one NCAA Division I sport — let alone too.

“It really took me realizing actually how hard it would be. It’s hard now to go to one from the other in high school and college is completely different level. So it was time for me to choose one and I had to think which one do I see myself being more successful in, what to like to do and what is easier on my body?” Diggs said.

From four schools, she narrowed it down to NAU and Montana. Her brother Aidan, older by a year, runs track and plays football at Montana and gave her advice.

NAU visited her at home and offered her a rare full-ride college track scholarship in April. Diggs said her major is undecided, but she is thinking of studying psychology and human behavior.

“It was between NAU and Montana with Aidan. Financially also played a big part. It’s far away enough where I can go and experience stuff and I’m part of a great program. But mom and dad are close,” Diggs said.

It is a path she never would have imagined entering high school. Diggs said she started track her freshman year.

Former Millennium coach Muhammad Oliver, whom Diggs said is a family friend, talked her into it.

Tigers coaches quickly noticed her throwing potential and eventually were able to get her in contact with throwing coach Eric Johnson. She trains four or five days a week.

“He definitely took a lot of time and brought me under his wing. He taught me a lot. I met him at midseason last year because I had just come back from basketball and he watched me throw. The throws coach last year basically understood, ‘This is not my forte, I’m a football coach. But we should get you the best opportunity we can,’” Diggs said.

And there is one other thing. She said Johnson hates that she played basketball.

Still, they had built a rapport prior to this year. When Easley arrived, she quickly told Johnson she did not want to change anything about routine.

Rather than directly coaching her, Easley said she wanted to give Diggs ideas of what to expect in college.

“I went to U of A for track so I could give her some feedback on what it’s like collegiately and what to expect,” Easley said.

The new coach and her star quickly bonded.

“She’s my girl,” Diggs said. “Nobody wants to hear that the coach that brought them into this sport is leaving, but she definitely understands a lot and helps a lot with training. We’ve gotten close.”

Easley said Diggs’ upbeat personality made her the focal point of the squad just as much as her success.

The new coach started to get to know the other seniors Through Diggs.

“She’s fun and gets along with everyone, even the freshmen. They say, ‘I don’t want to talk to her because she’s so big.’ But she’s literally like a teddy bear. And she’s shy, which is a crazy part. But she was a huge help for me, coming in and not knowing anybody. She was able to explain things to me,” Easley said.

Now the only question was what kind of competition Diggs would face after moving down a division. The answer, in the discus at least, was Dysart senior Kiara Anderson.

She said much like 2018 Queen Creek graduate Alexis Jones pushed her lasted year. Anderson forced her to improve. Anderson nearly claimed the discus title with a toss of 132 feet.

“I think having that friendly competition there to push you goes hand in hand for both of them. I know when we get our heat sheets she immediately wanted to see that and would say, ‘Where’s Dysart?’ Easley said.

Diggs likely will be the final member of her family to compete at Millennium and is responsible for more success than her four older brothers. Younger sister Addison is not into sports.

Following the first week of May, AJ, Aaron, Andrew and Aidan have to take a back seat to little sis.

“We’re a very competitive family so there’s a lot of trash talked. For example school records with track. Aidan has a lot of them but my older brother Aaron has a couple. If either of them talks down to me I say, ‘Guess what I won,’” Diggs said. “I think being a Diggs definitely helps a lot because it makes people more comfortable around me.”

Friends surround Millennium senior Alaina Diggs, left, after she signed a letter of intent to compete on a track scholarship at NAU on May 2. [Submitted Photo]

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