Louisiana State University is one of the top NCAA Division I schools in the country, and the caliber of pure talent that the university produces is second to none. When athletes suit up in the legendary purple and gold with those three letters (LSU) across their chest, they mean business. This was no different for Danyel Mitchell, an inductee this Friday into the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Mitchell was an integral part of the Tigers’ Track & Field team from 1991 to 1994, and she competed as one of the nation’s top shot put and discus throwers. During her time at LSU, she won nine SEC Championships, ranking her sixth in LSU’s history for most individual conference titles.
She won three NCAA titles in the discus and indoor shot put during her collegiate career and later went on to represent the United States at the Outdoor World Championships in Gothenburg Sweden in 1995.
Mitchell’s record speaks for itself. In 1994, her hometown of Vallejo, Calif., awarded her with her first Hall of Fame induction into city’s Sports Hall of Fame. Now, the lasting impact she left on LSU’s track and field program has earned her an induction into the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I am extremely honored to be inducted into LSU’s Hall of Fame and be considered among the greatest to ever compete here,” Mitchell said. “To be recognized for the talent and hard work is very rewarding.”
To call her “a great athlete” is an understatement. Thirty years after her collegiate career was completed, her legacy still reigns, as she continues to hold the LSU women’s discus record of 194’ 4” she set in 1994. She also remains ranked No. 2 in the Tigers’ record book in the shot put, both indoors and outdoors.
Aside from Mitchell’s many athletics accolades, she has also been dedicated to giving back to the community. She is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, a relationship that has allowed her to carry out numerous acts of service and charity for the Baton Rouge community.
Her philanthropic efforts include fundraisers, hosting community outreach programs, mentoring children, feeding the less fortunate, and events where local athletes are “auctioned” to go on dinner dates in return for charitable donations.
As Mitchell reflected on her time at LSU, she recalled one of her most exciting meets. The 1993 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships marked her first big win in a major competition. Going into the meet, she wasn’t among the favorites to claim a medal.
“On my final throw, I knew I had to give it everything I had and leave it all out on the field,” Mitchell recalled.
That last throw measured 55’ 5 ¾” and ultimately earned her a first-place gold medal in the NCAA meet. She followed that triumph by winning the NCAA discus title outdoors in both 1993 and 1994.
A valuable lesson stuck with Mitchell throughout her career as a collegiate athlete, one she often shares with younger athletes pursuing a track & field career.
“I tell young people to view each meet individually and continue to leap forward,” Mitchell explained. “You’ll have good and bad days, but you cannot let a bad day define who you are as an athlete.”
In this era, social media can be very influential to athletes. Fans have direct access to contact them, and as a competitor, they receive both negative and positive feedback.
“It’s important that today’s student-athlete learn to tune out others and remember that they don’t personally know you” Mitchell shared.
“Being a collegiate athlete is meant to be an exciting experience,” she continued, “the opportunity to travel the world while competing in the sport you love is unmatched. I encourage athletes to focus on getting the job done and not miss out on their experiences by letting a bad meet or practice, or a negative experience, consume them.”
“Why not go to the Number 1?” Mitchell replied when asked why she chose to attend LSU. The Hall of Famer described her experience at LSU as nothing short of amazing.
“Making the decision to join and compete at a school where the athletes are committed to excellence was a true blessing,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t have had an experience nearly as amazing if I had attended another university.”
Mitchell has always held on to the LSU track & field program’s feeling of a family dynamic; it’s something that she holds in high regard.
“Having genuine teammates who show you endless amounts of encouragement and inspire you to be your best self is something every athlete needs, and I truly value the experience I had at LSU,” Mitchell said. “We were a family, and we still are.”