From Discus Thrower To Endurance Athlete
|July 6, 2012||Posted by Katy under Inner Musings, Race Photographs, Running|
So I sort of failed on my new blogging schedule this week. I did not post on Wednesday because I did not do anything exciting for the Fourth of July and then I did not post a recipe yesterday because I was swamped all day studying for an exam.
However, I am back tonight for my first installment of Sports Talk Friday. This series is pretty open ended; I may talk about my own experiences with sports or about upcoming events and athletes. Tonight I wanted to start off with a post I have been meaning to write for awhile.
A few months ago, I received a few comments from people asking more about my athletic background, specifically my track and field experiences. Depending on how long you have been reading my blog, you may or may not know that I was a discus and shot-put thrower in high school.
I started track in middle school but failed to find an event that I excelled in. I was horrible at long jump, not fast enough to be a sprinter, and not tall enough to be a high jumper. So for my first two years of track and field (5th and 6th grade) I was put in the event where the “least athletic” went… the mile run.
As an eleven and twelve year old, I had absolutely NO endurance whatsoever. I absolutely hated going to practice three times a week because nothing was more humiliating than being dead last at every single practice. When it came time to “try out” (and I use that term loosely because everyone made the team) for the track team in 7th grade, I almost decided not to. However, somehow my mom had been talked into volunteering for the team as a shot-put coach that year (she threw in high school) and instead of lining up with the runners at the first day of practice, I followed the throwers to the shot-put area.
I was not very good at first, but over time I stated getting used to heaving a medal ball into the air. At the end of my 7th grade season, I placed third in the conference meet with a throw of 24′ 6″ (with a lighter six pound shot. A typical women’s shot is 8.8 pounds).
My 8th grade year I continued with the shot-put (again placing third in the conference with a throw of 25′ 4.5″) but also picked up the discus for the first time. The girls team had an additional meet at the end of the season against the Girls Club team in town and had a few extra events, one being the discus. Before that meet, I had never even seen a discus in my life. However, I must have had some natural skill because I ended up placing first in my age group.
In high school, I continued my athletic career on the volleyball, basketball, and track teams. During those first two years of high school, I did not take track too seriously. I continued to throw the shot-put and discus, but also ran in the 800m and 1500m from time to time (my endurance improved since my middle school days thanks to hours of volleyball and basketball practice). I never thought that track would become my main sport, as I loved volleyball and even thought of trying to play for a small D2 or D3 school in college. However, after a falling out with my coach the summer before my junior year, my priorities changed.
After realizing my volleyball career was pretty much over, I focused on a new goal. I decided that I wanted to be the first student in my school in ANY sport to qualify and compete in a state championship event. I was the first graduating class of my high school and we were not eligible by the Florida High School Athletic Association bylaws to compete in any district, regional, or state event for the first two years we were in existence.
During my junior year I went from a three sport athlete to a two in order to focus more on training for track. I dropped volleyball and basketball, picked up cross country in the fall and trained all winter for the spring track and field season. I started lifting weights, doing agility drills, and getting some actual coaching on my technique. My training paid off and I placed first in the discus both at the district and regional meets, qualifying me for the state meet in my class division. I achieved the goal I set out to do, but the state meet was definitely not how I envisioned it. I came down with mononucleosis the Monday before the meet and was feeling so sick the day of the meet, that I did not make it past the preliminary round.
While I achieved my ultimate goal of being the first athlete in my school to qualify for a state event, I was disappointed by my performance at the meet. I wanted to do better, so that summer, I sat down and made new goals for my senior year. I vowed that I would focus 100% on training, make it back to the state meet in both the discus and shot-put throw, and to place top 8 in my class division at the state meet. With these goals in mind, I dropped cross country my senior year, becoming a one sport athlete, to train year round for track season.
My dad came on as my strength and conditioning coach and I worked with some other coaches on refining my technique. For the first time in my life, I was on a strict training schedule of training 5-6 days a week year round (with easy weeks during midterms and finals). There were days when I absolutely hated training because it was very repetitious; throw after throw after throw; tweaking little parts of my approach to maximize the power and distance of my throw. However, when track the first meet of the season came in early February, I finally saw the product of my hard work.
On my very first throw, I threw the furthest I had ever thrown up to that point: I made it over 100 feet. Compared to other athletes who compete at this event, it is nothing but for someone who threw in the 70- low 80 feet for three years, it was huge. My confidence continued to grow meet after meet where I threw further and further, placing in almost every meet.
When it came time for the district meet, I not only placed first in the discus but also in the shot-put. At regionals the following week, I had a rough time in the discus, but I still placed second. In the shot-put I surprised myself by placing third, qualifying me to return to state in both the discus and shot-put.
At the state meet, I felt confident and ready to redeem myself for my performance the previous year. My first event was the shot-put where I threw a disappointing 30″ 3.75′, putting me 12th place and out of the finals. However, I brushed myself off and prepared mentally for my “A” event, the discus. I easily made it past the preliminary round and into the finals.
During the final round, on my first throw, I hit a MASSIVE personal record of 111″ 2′ then during my final throw, I threw two inches further, tieing for fourth with another competitor. Since my second highest throw was further than the other girl, I ended up placing fourth overall in the state in my school classification!
It is weird for me to think back, four years later, on what I achieved. It may not be a lot all things considered and there are definitely better discus throwers out there than me, but it is one of the achievements I am most proud of to this day. It was the first time in my life that I actually set out to achieve a goal, made some sacrifices, trained my butt off, and made my goals become a reality.
Since that time, I really feel like I have only done this on one other occasion- when I set out and trained for my first half-marathon. The only difference between that and achieving my track goals is that I trained for my half-marathon with no guidance or help from anyone else.
While I have set out and achieved race goals and personal goals over the years, I have not set my mind to something HUGE and went out for it, and that needs to change. I have some ideas I have been tossing around lately, but I need to come to a decision and just go out there and make things happen!
So, there is the story of my track and field “career.” While I have not been actively competing in track competitions for over four years, I am thinking about making a small comeback to the sport as a thrower for fun. We will just have to wait and see what happens!
What is the achievement you are most proud of?