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Technique, work ethic propel throwers to next level

Strength alone doesn’t take athletes to the top of their game

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The image attached to track and field competitors who throw the shot put and discus is changing.

In the past, athletes who were bigger, and often slower, were generally assumed to be throwers.

But the profile has changed.

Size is still important, but it doesn’t always lead to success. Most of the state’s top boys and girls shot put and discus participants are athletes with speed, quickness and explosive strength. A strong work ethic, mental toughness and aggressiveness are also traits associated with the exceptional throwers today.

“I’m in the weight room four times a week,” said 6-foot-4, 235-pound Faith Christian senior Reece Davidson, who has the second best distance in the shot put so far this season, according to Colorado Mile Split rankings. “I’m trying to be a good as I possibly can.

“I guess some people do think throwers are just all muscle and just show up and throw. That isn’t the case. I’m training to go to a (Division I) school (Belmont University) next year. I’m putting in hours on top of hours. It has a lot to do with agility, explosiveness.”

Ralston Valley head boys and girls track coach Matt Loyd has witnessed the changing image of throwers.

“It’s not just big guys anymore,” he said. “It is for guys and girls who are strong, quick and explosive regardless of their size. Our best thrower (Brad Roberts) is also our best sprinter.”

Mountain Range senior Amber Gustason is a basketball player who started throwing the shot put and discus during her sophomore year. She has the state’s fifth best throw in both the shot and discus.

“At first, it seems super difficult — spinning in a circle with a heavy object is not easy to pick up,” Gustason said. “For beginning throwers it is more simple but the more you throw the more difficult it gets because it is very meticulous and the details make a big difference in your throws.

“Preparation is key in both shot put and discus and it’s a big mental game too. You know what your body can physically do and it is just the mental blocks to overcome. Mentally, you have to prepare yourself as well as physically.”

Gustason says footwork and generating power from the legs are vital.

“One big misconception I had when trying to recruit people to come out and throw was people telling me, ‘Oh, I don’t have a lot of upper body strength,’ “ said Gustason. “But when it comes down to it, I’ve competed against small girls, like 5-2, 5-3 girls, and knowing how to generate power from the ground is what it is. Weigh distribution and consistency play into it, too.”

Douglas County’s Tyler Nelson, a lanky 185-pound junior, has the second best discus throw recorded so far this season.

“For me, a lot of it is technique,” said Nelson who has a 7-foot wingspan, which certainly helps when throwing a discus. “Discus is a lot more technical. It is not as physically demanding.”

Nelson also points out that the toughest opposition doesn’t necessarily come from other people.

“The game,” he said, “is competing against yourself.”

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