Lots to love about Sophia Rivera’s glide

It has been nice reading the recent glide/spin debate on the Macthrowvideo Chat site, one because it has been civil, and two because it is an issue that all high school coaches have to grapple with.

My two cents? A high school coach has to know how to teach both. A college coach can say “the glide sucks, I’m only going to recruit rotational throwers,” but high school coaches cannot control who enrolls in their school and the fact is that some kids are better suited to the glide, so you have to be ready to teach it.

It just so happens that a month ago at the World Youth Trials at Benedictine University I got to see a young thrower with a technically excellent glide–Sophia Rivera, who ended up finishing second at the World Youth Championships in Colombia.

For my contribution to the glide/spin debate, I’d like to point out some aspects of Sophia’s technique that make her glide so effective.

First, Sophia accelerates the shot through a long, straight path. Think of the barrel of one of those Brown Bess muskets that the British shot my Irish ancestors with back in the day. They were made long and straight to put maximum acceleration on the ball.

See how the shot stays on a straight path from here…



…through here…




…to here:




Even as she drives the shot through the finish…




…there is very little deviation from it’s original…









That there is sound physics, folks.


Second, from the power position she drives right-to-left into the throw, javelin style.

There is a persistent myth out there that gliders should land both feet simultaneously in the power position. Think about the way we throw things, though. If you had a rock in your hand and a chance to throw it at an in-law without getting caught, you wouldn’t plant both feet first. Not if you wanted to do some real damage. You would drive from your right foot to your left, the way Sophia does here…









It’s only natural.


Finally, Sophia gets maximum value from the ground. 

Driving hard against it with the right foot here…




…and here…





…and here…





…still driving, even after the shot has left her hand.


And by the way, look how solid her block is!  Every ounce of energy she created across the ring has gone into accelerating that shot.

I tip my hat to Sophia’s coach, Ron Eichaker. He has done a superb job of teaching Sophia a biomechanically sound glide.

Let me close by throwing out a question to our glide v. spin debaters. Sophia is about to enter her senior year in high school. As previously mentioned, she finished second at the World Youth Championships, so she is pretty…good. But, if the spin is truly the superior technique, Sophia should  switch to it when she gets to college, right?

But, if she switches, isn’t there a risk that she might not be able to transfer these sound mechanics to the rotational technique?

You’re her college coach. What are you going to do?




Team Sophia plays the Long Game

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the USATF World Youth Trials in Lisle, Illinois and watching sixteen-year-old Sophia Rivera win the shot put and javelin competitions.


Afterwards, I had a nice chat with Sophia. You can find a transcript of that interview here:


One thing that became clear as I spoke to Sophia was that her parents (Edwin Rivera and Michelle Hessemer) and her coach (Ron Eichaker) were taking a measured approach in developing Sophia’s athletic talents. They understood that Sophia was in the beginning phase of what will likely be a long career as a thrower, and they were determined not to sacrifice her long term potential in the interest of short-term gains.

In order to get a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind Sophia’s training, I contacted Ron Eichaker.

It turns out that Ron is a man of wide-ranging interests and experiences, many of which have contributed to his determination to play the Long Game with Sophia.

Ron grew up on north side of Chicago where he attended an Orthodox Jewish Day School in his early years.  When he graduated from Niles North High School in 1974, he held the school records in the shot put, discus and triple jump. In his spare time, he high jumped and ran the hurdles. His discus PB of 174’11” remains the school record.

When not on the track, Ron pursued what would become another lifelong passion: music. He sang in and around the Chicago area in Jewish choirs and as a solo performer beginning at the age of seven.

Somehow, Ron also found time to master the javelin, an event that was not even contested in Illinois High Schools.

Ron first picked up the jav during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years after seeing a college thrower chucking it around. As Wikipedia (affectionately known to us English teachers as “Satan’s Site”) had not yet been invented, Ron researched the javelin in the World Book Encyclopedia and “saw its historic connection to early civilization and found that the sport tied in perfectly with my affinity with ancient history and religion. It didn’t hurt that I had a pretty above average throwing arm anyway. And I also had a dance background in childhood.”

While in high school, Ron joined the University of Chicago Track Club, then in its heyday, which availed him the opportunity to rub elbows with some pretty beefy dudes. Brian Oldfield, Rick Bilder, George Tyms, Jesse Stuart, Al Feuerbach and “many other pretty good throwers” all competed at UCTC at that time.  He also met Bill Skinner, who helped him learn to throw the jav well enough that he hit 227’9″ in the spring of his senior year and received a scholarship to Northern Illinois University, where he was likely the only member of the Music Education department ever to hit the Olympic qualifying standard in the javelin.  Ron made the NCAA meet in 1975 but, unfortunately “threw way beyond my physical capabilities, and got injured.”

After rehab, Ron came back to throw his senior year and finished second in the MAC Championships before heading off to New York City to attend the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Following his ordination in 1982, Ron focused his considerable energies on his congregation (first in Milwaukee, and since 2000 as Cantor of the United Hebrew Congregation in Chesterfield, Missouri) and his family (he and his wife Heidi have raised two daughters).  During that time, Ron occasionally consulted with local college coaches, and even broke out the jav boots when administering motivational programs “for children and teens about how to realize goals and go after them.” But he never worked directly with athletes, and had to mothball the spear for good after rupturing his left Achilles tendon during a throwing exhibition in 1999. For a decade thereafter, Ron’s primary connection with the world of athletics came through helping his younger daughter, Lindsay, develop into a fine softball pitcher.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey fourth-grader named Sophia Rivera was raising eyebrows by throwing the mini-jav farther than most boys in her area. When the Rivera family relocated to Missouri as Sophia entered the sixth grade, they were eager to find a coach who could mentor their rocket-armed daughter. Luckily, Sophia’s mother Michelle Hassemer worked with a member of Ron’s congregation. That coworker knew of Ron’s secret past as a spearman and recommended that Michelle contact him.

Initially, Ron was reluctant to take on the responsibility of coaching Sophia. He was completely devoted to his 1,100 family congregation, and to his own family.  He agreed to meet with Michelle and Edwin however, and during a two-hour lunch at a local restaurant outlined the conditions under which he would consider mentoring Sophia.

As Ron remembers it, he told them that they needed to ” trust my vision as results will not happen for a few years.  Throwing and javelin in particular is to be developed over many years of training with progression determined by careful, incremental physical development, genetic predisposition, level of concern (mental maturity and training) and family support.”

Michelle recalls that first encounter with Ron this way:

“What I remember most about our first meeting with Ron was his passion/philosophy that excelling in sport is so much bigger than the podium.  He introduced us to a few concepts that resonated with our parenting style and approach but had never really been put into words.   These concepts have endured throughout the course of Sophia’s development.”

One of those concepts was that  “It’s not about being the best twelve or thirteen-year-old in the nation.”

Michelle explains:

“At first blush, this may seem contrary to the goals of a family whose child/children are involved in AAU or USATF summer/club track and field.  I mean, of course you want to get to Nationals and be on top of that podium, right?  Well if it happens then that’s great.  But what really matters is establishing a technical foundation in the chosen event/event family.  Being fanatic – and I mean OBSESSIVELY FANATIC about technique is fundamental.  For example, Sophia worked on perfecting the release for a year or more before starting the glide (shot put), spin (disc) or approach (javelin).    This also means not pushing a young athlete into an overly-rigorous strength training regimen too quickly.  The first step was to work on overall athleticism (hence the multiple sports–Sophia plays softball and basketball in addition to track) and core strength. Med Balls… lots of Med Ball work!  This helped Sophia create a solid core and develop specific strength for the throws.  And again – technique is the focus!  The goal is to really prepare the body for the rigors of throwing and training; particularly javelin throwing which is really hard on young backs, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees.”

Another important concept articulated by Ron was “Don’t chase a number.”

Again, Michelle explains:

“During a competition the focus is on one or two technical areas.  Early on, Ron would tell us what one or two things Sophia should focus on during a competition. At first it was/ could be anything from foot position to a relaxed left arm.  Then it progressed to more of a discussion with Ron and Sophia, and her dad and I would remind her.  Now it’s a chat over breakfast or before she checks in and we ask her what she’s going to focus on.  By focusing on the technique and one or two items, she’s learned to make corrections on her own and sort of ‘self-coach’ her way through a competition.  This also means that achieving technical goals is more important than distance.  So a good meet isn’t measured by place on the podium or whether she throws a PR – but on whether she hit her technical goals.  Did she hit her marks in the discus circle?  Is that left leg staying low in the drive?  Was her javelin approach fluid and did she accelerate throughout?  If those technical goals are achieved the distances will take care of themselves.”

After agreeing to coach Sophia, Ron asked her parents to sign her up at a local training facility called HammerBodies. Ron met with the staff there and created a routine to “develop Sophia’s core and solidify her balance and stability in a non-resistive and natural fashion.”

Translation: Tons of medball throws, as Michelle mentioned earlier.

Only in the past year has Sophia been exposed to Olympic style weight lifting, and that only in the form of technique work with a 45-pound bar.

This fall, after five years of preparation, Sophia will begin adding weight to the bar.

In terms of teaching throwing technique, Ron describes himself as having “a Euro/Far Eastern philosophy…stressing the fine points of the throws from the release working backwards to the load phases of each throw. The Far Eastern approach employs ultra slow movements similar to tai chi, only using aspects of the throws to enhance an awareness of each muscle group firing in their proper sequence.”

Mentally,  Ron has sought to develop Sophia “like a young musician…a young artist who will grow with her art as her mind matures along with her techniques. My goal has been to help Sophia understand her body so that as her technique advances she is able to incorporate and advance her techniques in a balanced fashion. As a voice major at NIU, my professors told me that I should not be overdeveloped as my body and my voice were still maturing. I would not hit my vocal peak util my mid-thirties, so I should be patient and persistent and learn to absorb and adapt healthy additions to a solid vocal foundation to be able to develop in a time frame dictated by my body and not by either my mind or the perceptions of others. As this related to Sophia, the more technique at an early age the more to address as the body grows.  Every year she has been dealing with a new body and a new center of gravity.  More technical elements just means more to adjust and, unfortunately, many coaches adjust by just adding more technique.  Like a machine that is constantly upgraded with new components.  Pretty soon the original engine is indistinguishable, so when something breaks it becomes more difficult to identify the source of the breakage and then provide a remedy without causing an imbalance elsewhere, hence another break.  She fully understands and accepts that her maturity as a thrower will not occur until her mid to late 20’s and in order to maximize her potential, she will have to continue to lay micronic strata of layers to her already established base techniques.”

Thus far, Team Sophia’s emphasis on the Long Game has worked well. Earlier this week, she finished second in the shot and eighth in the javelin at the World Youth Championships. She has attracted much interest from college track programs.

More importantly, she has built a solid technical base from which to launch a long and productive career.




Sophia’s Busy Night in Cali

sohia 2

If, during a future job interview, Sophia Rivera is asked if she is able to multi-task, she now has a ready made answer.

Thursday  night, in the World Youth Games, she competed in the shot put and javelin finals…at the same time.

She literally had to take a throw in the shot, cross the infield, take a throw in the jav, and then head back to the shot.

And threw great in both events, finishing eighth in the jav with a throw of 50.85m, and second in the shot with a sixth-round put of 17.93m.

According to Sophia’s mom, “the IAAF officials allowed her to throw anywhere in the order but it had to be in the given round or it would be a pass. She warmed up for javelin at the practice track but once inside the stadium only warmed up for shot. The shot put start list had her throwing last – she chose to throw 2nd in the order and then it was off to the races!  She had time to change shoes, but not much…  After her 4th throw in the Jav, she knew her chances were better to medal in the shot, so she passed her last two javelin throws.”

Sophia’s coach, Ron Eichaker, was not surprised by her poise. According to Ron, “Her performance yesterday represented a culmination of all her training both physical and mental over the past several years.”

Ron pointed out that Sophia trains at least two and sometimes three different events at a typical practice session. “Each session lasts between 90 and 120  minutes. As we transition from one discipline to the other, I work with her on subtle mental imaging. Over time, it conditions her mind to compartmentalize.”

Providing an additional boost Thursday night in Cali, was the fact that Sophia was representing her country. “After all,” continued Ron, “it was all for her team. She knows that she is part of something bigger than herself and she was honored to answer when her events were called.”

Sophia’s next chance to represent the US will be at the Pan Am Juniors in Edmonton, Canada over the weekend of July 31st. Though she will be competing against older athletes (NCAA champion Raven Saunders for one) it promises to be a relaxing weekend for Sophia as she will be competing only in the shot.



Chicagoland Throws Meet – Saturday Interviews

Here is Dan’s interview with Gia Lewis-Smallwood after throwing a season’s best 64.01M.


Here is Kaylee Antil, recent HS graduate who will be joining Dave Dumble’s throws squad at Arizona State in the Fall.


Here are the exceptional Davis brothers, Carlos and Khalil who are heading for Nebraska this Fall as football and track athletes.


Here is Michael Marsack, who came to be known as PR Mike by the meet announcer as he repeatedly set new PRs during the competition.


Here is Riley Dolezal who came into the meet looking for the “A” standard in the jav.


Here is Dani Bunch, a recent graduate of Purdue and converted from a glider to a rotational shot putter.



Chicagoland Throws Meet – Friday Interviews

This is Dan’s interview with American discus legend Mac Wilkins.


This is Adam Kelly, a recent HS grad who will be attending Princeton in the fall.  Adam set a new PR at the meet of 74.10M.


This is Gwen Berry, the women’s hammer throw winner.


This Darrell Hill, who has thrown exceptionally well recently, placing second at NCAAs and was sixth at Nationals.


This is Stephanie Brown Trafton, 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the discus.


This is Becky O’Brien, recent graduate of The University of Buffalo and an emerging force in women’s shot.


Chicagoland Throws – Elite Shot Put

Event 13  Women Shot Put Elite
 NSAF Girls Shot Put: 4 kg
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Smith, Brittany              USATF                   18.12m   59-05.50 
      17.67m  17.40m  17.67m  17.64m  17.98m  18.12m
  2 O'Brien, Becky               USATF                   17.64m   57-10.50 
      17.64m  16.93m  17.57m  16.74m  16.52m  17.41m
  3 Bunch, Dani                  USATF                   17.28m   56-08.50 
      17.28m  FOUL  FOUL  17.08m  FOUL  FOUL
  4 Bliss, Tori                  USATF                   16.90m   55-05.50 
      15.87m  16.73m  16.41m  FOUL  16.90m  FOUL
  5 Wilson, Alyssa               NSAF                    15.20m   49-10.50 
      FOUL  14.95m  FOUL  15.15m  FOUL  15.20m
  6 Bruckner, Elena              NSAF                    14.71m   48-03.25 
      14.33m  FOUL  14.71m  FOUL  14.62m  14.35m
  7 Dawson, Khayla               NSAF                    14.15m   46-05.25 
      13.77m  13.91m  14.09m  13.85m  14.15m  13.69m
  8 Young, KD                    NSAF                    13.88m   45-06.50 
      13.37m  13.27m  FOUL  12.70m  13.67m  13.88m
  9 Antill, Kaylee               NSAF                    12.43m   40-09.50 
      FOUL  11.98m  12.03m  FOUL  11.99m  12.43m


Event 14  Men Shot Put Elite
 NSAF Boys Shot Put: 12 lb.
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Hill, Darrell                USATF                   20.19m   66-03.00 
      19.49m  20.19m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL
  2 Geist, Jordan                NSAF                    19.76m   64-10.00 
      FOUL  19.76m  FOUL  19.67m  19.55m  FOUL
  3 Werskey, Eric                USATF                   19.52m   64-00.50 
      19.52m  19.28m  19.20m  19.33m  19.11m  19.28m
  4 Favors, Eric                 NSAF                    19.28m   63-03.25 
      18.88m  19.17m  19.11m  FOUL  FOUL  19.28m
  5 Dechant, Matt                USATF                   18.85m   61-10.25 
      FOUL  18.05m  18.48m  FOUL  18.85m  18.64m
  6 Saenz, Stephen               USATF                   18.32m   60-01.25 
      18.32m  FOUL  PASS  PASS  PASS  PASS
  7 Davis, Khalil                NSAF                    17.83m   58-06.00 
      17.83m  FOUL  17.56m  17.39m  FOUL  17.44m
  8 Cartwright, Grant            OPEN                    16.06m   52-08.25 
      FOUL  FOUL  15.23m  FOUL  16.06m  FOUL

Chicagoland Throws – Elite Javelin

Event 11  Women Javelin Throw Elite
 NSAF Girls Javelin: 600 g
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Hamilton, Kimberly           USATF                   58.08m     190-07 
      FOUL  54.37m  52.56m  50.51m  55.00m  58.08m
  2 Ince, Ariana                 USATF                   57.72m     189-04 
      57.72m  54.54m  50.85m  54.38m  FOUL  52.74m
  3 Petranoff, Leigh             USATF                   51.94m     170-05 
      51.06m  51.13m  45.93m  51.94m  49.14m  51.23m
  4 Kearney, Gabby               NSAF                    49.62m     162-09 
      46.21m  47.00m  FOUL  49.29m  49.62m  48.60m
  5 Fitzgerald, Emma             NSAF                    45.21m     148-04 
      41.67m  43.20m  43.36m  45.21m  FOUL  43.64m
  6 Bower, Morgan                NSAF                    32.58m     106-11 
      30.37m  32.58m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL  31.70m


Event 12  Men Javelin Throw Elite
 NSAF Boys Javelin: 800 grams
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Dolezal, Riley               USATF                   79.71m     261-06 
      77.02m  79.49m  FOUL  79.71m  FOUL  FOUL
  2 Furey, Sean                  USATF                   79.04m     259-04 
      76.03m  FOUL  75.69m  72.39m  77.72m  79.04m
  3 Glover, Tim                  USATF                   72.78m     238-09 
      72.78m  71.64m  PASS  FOUL  PASS  FOUL
  4 Van Liew, Tim                USATF                   67.35m     220-11 
      65.66m  FOUL  FOUL  67.35m  63.66m  62.99m
  5 Howe, Nicholas               USATF                   66.52m     218-03 
      66.40m  64.90m  FOUL  FOUL  64.78m  66.52m
  6 Marsack, Michael             NSAF                    64.26m     210-10 
      59.46m  61.67m  59.67m  60.48m  64.26m  FOUL
  7 Biddle, Michael              NSAF                    62.25m     204-03 
      62.25m  61.44m  FOUL  59.45m  60.47m  60.38m
  8 Jones, Grant                 NSAF                    60.28m     197-09 
      56.83m  60.28m  57.90m  56.90m  52.60m  57.91m
  9 Hill, Grayson                NSAF                    58.36m     191-06 
      FOUL  57.30m  58.36m  FOUL  56.55m  FOUL
 10 Lenihan, Kiegan              USATF                   54.45m     178-08 
      50.49m  54.45m  49.63m  47.07m  FOUL  FOUL

Chicagoland Throws – Elite Discus


Event 9  Women Discus Throw Elite
 NSAF Girls Discus: 1 kg.
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Lewis-Smallwood, Gia         USATF                   64.01m     210-00 
      62.39m  FOUL  60.25m  FOUL  64.01m  FOUL
  2 Podominick, Liz              USATF                   57.39m     188-03 
      52.31m  53.70m  FOUL  56.26m  57.39m  FOUL
  3 Pierson, Summer              USATF                   57.12m     187-05 
      53.24m  52.65m  55.97m  57.12m  54.25m  55.15m
  4 Trafton, Stephanie           USATF                   52.40m     171-11 
      50.28m  50.71m  48.11m  51.26m  52.40m  51.72m
  5 Lockhart, Samantha           USATF                   50.69m     166-04 
      FOUL  50.57m  FOUL  50.69m  FOUL  50.64m
  6 Phelps, Kiana                NSAF                    50.20m     164-08 
      46.70m  47.18m  48.30m  48.75m  48.32m  50.20m
  7 Showalter, Haley             NSAF                    49.78m     163-04 
      43.99m  43.94m  49.78m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL
  8 Szkowny, Alison              USATF                   49.41m     162-01 
      45.27m  47.46m  FOUL  45.57m  49.41m  FOUL
  9 Antill, Kaylee               NSAF                    47.72m     156-07 
      46.13m  47.32m  42.23m  44.64m  42.21m  47.72m
 10 Bruckner, Elena              NSAF                    47.56m     156-00 
      44.86m  45.80m  47.56m  FOUL  47.04m  42.52m
 11 Wilson, Alyssa               NSAF                    44.25m     145-02 
      41.19m  44.05m  42.67m  44.10m  43.90m  44.25m
 12 Young, KD                    NSAF                    42.86m     140-07 
      42.23m  41.60m  42.36m  40.32m  42.86m  36.21m
 13 Dawson, Khayla               NSAF                    40.78m     133-09 
      FOUL  FOUL  40.78m  FOUL  38.24m  FOUL



Event 10  Men Discus Throw Elite
 NSAF Boys Discus: 1.6 kg
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Carlos, Davis                NSAF                    60.14m     197-04 
      60.14m  FOUL  57.88m  55.10m  FOUL  58.24m
  2 Davis, Khalil                NSAF                    59.50m     195-02 
      59.50m  58.21m  55.50m  55.31m  57.77m  58.04m
  3 Evans, Andrew                USATF                   59.27m     194-05 
      57.92m  56.48m  56.45m  59.14m  59.27m  57.83m
  4 Winger, Russ                 Asics America           59.14m     194-00 
      55.89m  58.26m  59.14m  FOUL  FOUL  57.24m
  5 Ribeiro, Lucas               NSAF                    54.19m     177-09 
      54.19m  52.17m  FOUL  51.73m  51.05m  FOUL
  6 Geist, Jordan                NSAF                    50.35m     165-02 
      50.35m  50.27m  48.76m  49.70m  50.00m  49.97m

Chicagoland Throws – Elite Hammer

This video shows the entire women’s elite hammer competition.



Event 3  Women Hammer Throw Elite
 NSAF Girls Hammer: 4 kg
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Berry, Gwen                  Nyac-Nike               69.60m     228-04 
      67.37m  69.60m  69.45m  68.98m  68.97m  FOUL
  2 Smith, Kristin               USATF                   68.90m     226-00 
      67.11m  63.93m  FOUL  68.90m  63.73m  66.75m
  3 Pleger, Brooke               USATF                   68.66m     225-03 
      64.68m  65.65m  63.05m  FOUL  68.66m  FOUL
  4 Henry, Brittany              USATF                   67.05m     220-00 
      63.15m  67.01m  FOUL  66.11m  FOUL  67.05m
  5 Bush, Taylor                 USATF                   65.10m     213-07 
      64.01m  63.22m  64.20m  FOUL  65.10m  64.26m
  6 Showalter, Haley             NSAF                    59.17m     194-01 
      58.46m  FOUL  FOUL  57.47m  59.17m  56.45m
  7 Jacobsen, Courtney           NSAF                    52.96m     173-09 
      51.90m  50.51m  50.83m  50.22m  FOUL  52.96m
  8 Wilson, Alyssa               NSAF                    51.89m     170-03 
      FOUL  FOUL  49.25m  47.35m  48.52m  51.89m
  9 Antill, Kaylee               NSAF                    51.47m     168-10 
      48.30m  50.09m  FOUL  51.47m  FOUL  FOUL
 10 Thomas, Makena               NSAF                    48.01m     157-06 
      FOUL  45.39m  46.56m  48.01m  FOUL  FOUL


This video shows the entire men’s elite hammer competition.



Event 4  Men Hammer Throw Elite
 NSAF Boys Hammer: 12 lb.
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals           
  1 Kelly, Adam                  NSAF                    74.10m     243-01 
      70.82m  74.10m  71.27m  73.65m  73.96m  73.92m
  2 Morse, Tim                   USATF                   66.70m     218-10 
      65.62m  65.46m  FOUL  65.49m  66.70m  FOUL
  3 Whitener, Seth               NSAF                    64.18m     210-07 
      FOUL  62.28m  FOUL  64.18m  FOUL  63.81m
  4 Thornton, Darian             USATF                   62.13m     203-10 
      FOUL  62.13m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL
  5 Alvernaz, Michael            NSAF                    60.78m     199-05 
      59.15m  FOUL  FOUL  FOUL  60.78m  FOUL

The Journey to Randall’s

The Adidas Grand Prix meet in New York City is held at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island, which sits in the East River off of the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

There are a couple of ways to get there.

If you are a genuine pansy, you can take a cab.

If you are a brave and indomitable urban warrior, you can take the subway to 103rd street and then hoof it the rest of the way.

Two years ago, my former thrower Peter Trofimuk and I took the manly route for the first time. It was bizarrely cold and gloomy that late May day, as indicated by this photo of me on the pedestrian bridge to Randall’s…

Dan phone may 2013 015


…and we nearly died of hypothermia, but after surviving  the trek we vowed to repeat it whenever we were in town for the Adidas Grand Prix.

This year, we were joined by Peter’s twin brother Pat, also one of my former throwers and currently a coaching colleague at Wheaton North High School. Pat was not part of The Vow, but unfortunately for him, Peter and I insisted he accompany us on the long, rugged, character-building  journey to Randall’s.

The three of us gathered in the lobby of the Hyatt Grand Central on the day before the meet. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, warm and cloudless and we decided to head over to Icahn in hopes of seeing some of the throwers practice.

The intensity of the afternoon sun made Pat a bit dubious about the whole Manly Walk concept, but Peter and I would brook no dissent. We strongly insinuated that he was a wussy boy, and threatened to shun, nay, to scorn him openly if he did not join us.

Of course he caved (What human would not?) and we promptly embarked on what would become known as “Death March, Part 1.”

Things started out rather smoothly, as is the case with many disasters (Napoleon’s incursion into Russia comes to mind), as we descended into the bowels of Grand Central Station and caught an uptown express train.  Here are the Trofimuks, enjoying that ride.

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We had to get off at 86th street to switch to a local train,and that’s where things started to get iffy.

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First, we were viciously photo-bombed by a roving band of pre-teens…

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Next came the long walk through East Harlem, followed by the steep climb up and over the pedestrian bridge, the ever-intrepid Peter leading the way.

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Here is Pat, putting on a brave face at the summit of the bridge.

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This is before Peter and I informed him that once over the bridge, we had at least a mile’s walk ahead of us before we reached Icahn.

I’m a married man, so I can tell when someone is about to rip me a new one. I guess you could say that I’ve developed a sixth sense about that.

Luckily for Peter and myself, Pat spotted some large birds circling overhead and had to weigh his inclination to assault us against  the possibility that those might in fact be vultures coming to pick clean his dead carcass if we ditched him and let him find his own way to Icahn.

Long story short, we did make it to Icahn. All three of us.

And we had a great time once we got there!

Jordan Clarke, Tom Walsh, and Ryan Whiting were just finishing up some practice throws when we arrived, and I shanghaied Clarke for an interview straight away. You can read that interview here:


We also had a nice chat with Ryan Whiting who, like Clarke and Walsh, is a really good dude.

Here are Pat and myself with Clarke…


…sorry Jordan for dwarfing you with my buffness.


Here we are with Ryan.


After doing our best to annoy these fine shot putters, we turned our attention to the discus cage where Liz Podominick was taking some throws:



Like Clarke, Liz was nice enough to take a few minutes afterwards to talk about her season and her career in general. Here is that interview:


Once the pros cleared out, we had no choice but to get in the rings and demonstrate what great technique really looks like:




After that, it was time for the long walk home.

I’m not going to say much about that, as my therapist says it does not do any  good to obsess over traumatic events. All I know is, the Donner Party  probably thought they had it tough, but they never had to restrain a large, desperate man from hijacking a jet ski.

Next up: great times and big throws at the 2015 Adidas Grand Prix.