2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships

Friday, June 13th

 

Tim and I arrived at the outskirts of Des Moines around 3:00pm, uncertain as to what we’d find when we entered the city. In many respects, it was a perfect summer’s day. Bright sun. Light breeze. Eighty degrees. But we’d seen enough inundated fields, swollen rivers and coyote carcasses on our eight-hour journey to know that the previous day’s storms had done some damage. Flooding had already forced us to abandon Highway 80, the main road into Des Moines from the east, and follow a long, looping detour across the northern part of the state. Weather reports warned that although the rains had passed, runoff from the storms might cause already bloated rivers to spill their banks, and the Des Moines River runs right through downtown Des Moines. As we approached our exit, a strange-looking convoy sped past us going in the opposite direction: three yellow school buses escorted by half a dozen squad cars with their lights flashing heading out of Des Moines. Was this the beginning of some sort of evacuation?  Would the meet be cancelled? We didn’t know.

 

Tim has enrolled at Drake for the fall semester and is familiar with the campus, so with him navigating we quickly found parking, slapped on some sun block and scrambled toward the stadium. Within minutes we’d secured our media passes and planted ourselves behind the discus cage just as round two of the men’s discus final began. I took a moment to catch my breath and look around, and everything…seemed…perfect. Not a hint of flooding. No panic. No talk of an evacuation. The venerable Drake stadium, built of brick and situated in the middle of a neighborhood, exuded a quaint, old-school charm like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. The throwing area, a large, fenced-in square of plush grass attached to the north end of the stadium was alive with brightly uniformed athletes competing from two rings. The rings sat in different corners of the square field, maybe one hundred meters apart and connected by a long, low hill filled with spectators lounging back in the grass and enjoying the competition. A Sunday-school picnic could not have been more placid.  It felt surreal, but Tim and I had work to do, so we whipped out our notebooks and got down to business.

 

Men’s Discus

 

The early rounds of the men’s discus final were oddly subdued. Whether because of nerves or a slight tailwind or a combination of both, no one seemed able to muster Mr. Mojo. Many throwers struggled to get a proper flight on the disc, unable to keep the front edge from tipping up. Everyone seemed frustrated.  Leif Arrhenius, the sophomore from BYU, took the lead with a toss of 57.27m early in the second round, but that was the first throw of the day past 57 meters. The next came from Russ Winger, the fine all-around thrower from Idaho whose 57.17m pulled him into second. There were no other changes in the top two until Liberty’s Clendon Henderson stuck a 58.36m in round three to take the lead. At the break, the top five consisted of Henderson, Arrhenius, Winger, Jason Schutz of ColoradoState (56.76m) and Greg Garza of UCLA (56.71m).  I have to think that Garza, a veteran of many big competitions and owner of a 64.53m PR, would have been considered the favorite coming in, but he could not find his timing out of the back and each throw saw him crowding the front of the ring near the left foul line.

 

While the officials calculated and re-ordered the nine final finalists, several throwers took advantage of the delay to step into the ring and try to conjure some rhythm. At that point, every thrower who qualified for the final three rounds had to be thinking that he could win if he could just get a hold of one. Most took a couple of practice throws, and the disc seemed to be flying better out of everyone’s hand. Yemi Ayeni, a long-limbed University of Virginia junior sitting in eighth place at 55.17m, picked up a baseball and performed several dry throws. This apparently did the trick, as right after the break Ayeni, throwing second in the fourth round, stepped in and drilled a 59.50m to take the lead.

 

His reign was brief. Throwing third in round four was Rashaud Scott of Kentucky. Scott struggled mightily with his balance in the early rounds producing a 56.05m and two fouls, and Ayeni’s throw had just bumped him into eighth place. A powerfully built junior, he stepped into the ring, wound, turned, and lurched badly toward the left foul line as he sprinted out of the back. He almost fell down during his reverse, and I commented to Tim that he looked “way off balance on that one.”  Balance, apparently, is in the eye of the beholder. Scott’s throw measured 60.87m and put him in the lead.

 

Henderson also contributed a bit of round four excitement with his best throw of the day, 58.70m, which buttressed his hold on third place.  Ayeni backed up his 59.50m with a 59.23m in round five, but no one could catch Scott.

 

As round six began, Art Venegas, the great UCLA coach, left his perch on the hill overlooking the throwing rings and slowly walked over to Garza. Facing the last throw of his college career, Garza looked glum as Venegas spoke to him, and I wondered if the pressure of being the favorite, of maybe restoring some of the luster that the UCLA program has lost in the last few years weighed too heavily on him. He looked listless on his final throw and intentionally fouled it.

 

No one was able to come within two meters of Scott during the last round, and when Henderson fouled the final throw of the competition, Scott became champion.

 

Afterwards, Tim and I attempted to interview Scott. We had a mini tape recorder that a reporter who covers our meets back home lent us, and Scott was very polite about answering our questions. But warm-ups for the women’s disc had just begun and every time a throw headed anywhere near one of the foul lines an official let rip with a blast from an air horn as a way of warning the other officials to watch out, so the taped conversation ended up sounding like something from one of those reality TV shows where they beep out all the cusswords. As best I could tell, though, Scott said that during the first three rounds he felt like he was close to nailing one if he could just stop dropping his left arm out of the back. Whatever adjustment he made, it certainly worked. He’ll be back next year to defend his title, and if Ayeni remembers to pack his baseball theirs should be one heck of a battle.

 

  Women’s Hammer

 

A battle for first place between Eva Orban of USC and Brittany Riley of Southern Illinois started as a rout and ended with a close call. I’m kind of bummed that we couldn’t track down Orban after the competition, because she sounds like she’d make a great interview. According to a transcript that we found in the media room, a reporter had asked her after Wednesday’s prelims if she was worried because Riley threw farther that day. “No,” was her refreshingly honest reply. “The game’s on Friday.”

 

Indeed it was, and Orban made clear her intention of winning Friday’s “game” with a round one salvo of 68.27m.  Riley, the defending USATF champion and no shrinking violet herself, answered with 65.26m. Orban extended her lead in round two by hitting 68.71m, and seemed to have the title firmly in hand when Riley fouled her next four attempts. In round six, however, Riley launched a throw that appeared close to matching Orban’s best. It turned out to be 67.44m, which moved Riley from fourth place to second but left Orban the champion. Orban later told the USC website that had Riley jumped into first with that throw, she (Orban) was “ready to throw it farther.”  Considering that Orban has never finished lower than third in the Pac-10, NCAA Regional, or NCAA Championship meets, it is hard to doubt her word.

 

Another bit of drama in the women’s hammer was provided by the ladies of ASU. Defending team champions, ArizonaState needed a boatload of points in the throws to have any chance of repeating. That’s a lot of pressure to carry into the ring, but Sarah Stevens and Jessica Pressley both came through. In round five, Stevens launched a 66.37m throw to move from seventh place to third. Pressley did her part with a sixth-round 65.28m to nail down fourth place. As it turned out, those eleven points were just the beginning of a remarkable two days for the ASU women.

 

Men’s Javelin

 

As expected, the men’s javelin competition came down to a battle between the only three collegiate throwers to break the eighty-meter barrier this year: Cory White of USC, Adam Montague of Florida, and Chris Hill of Georgia.

 

Of these three, White threw first in round one and opened with 73.49m. Montague followed and topped White with 74.48m. Hill then took the lead with a 76.21m opener. White improved to 74.57m in round two to move into second place, only to see Hill extend his lead to 78.41m. White had his best throw, 77.79m, in round three, but there were no changes in the top three places for the rest of the competition.

 

According to the Georgia athletics website, Hill’s javelin title is the first in school history. Don Babbitt, Georgia’s highly regarded throws coach told the website that Hill “did a very good job holding off a couple great competitors today. He executed well and handled his first national championship with great composure.”

 

Hill returned the compliment saying, “There is no way I’d be where I am now without the help of Coach Babbitt.”

 

Men’s Hammer

 

Heading into Friday’s final, the men’s hammer competition shaped up as a battle between Auburn’s Jake Dunkleberger, the defending champion, and his teammate Cory Martin. However, as Auburn throws coach Jerry Clayton sagely reminded us, “There’s a big difference between coming in ranked one and two and actually finishing that way.” Though Clayton had faith in Martin and Dunkleberger, and referred to them both as “great competitors,” he was worried that Igor Agafonov of Kansas might pull off an upset. “He’s got a great coach, and he’s really dangerous,” said Clayton. “As long as he’s got a throw left, the competition is not over.”

 

It looked like Martin was determined to end the competition on the very first throw of the day, as he stepped into the ring and set a new Drake Stadium record of 72.83m. Agafonov responded with 69.51m, but the first round ended with Martin separated from the rest of the field by more than three meters.

 

Martin opened round two with 71.39m, and walked out of the ring hanging his head. Clayton told us that Martin had been throwing well in practice, and apparently the tall, bearded senior from Bloomington, Indiana felt he was ready to go farther than that 72.83m.

 

The battle for second place heated up in round two.  Dunkleberger showed some life with a 68.84m and Boldi Kocsor, much to the delight of the large UCLA cheering section perched on the hill above and to the right of the cage, knocked Agafonov into third with a toss of 69.92m. A fun moment came when Oregon senior Colin Veldman let loose with his second-round toss. Lance Deal, currently the Oregon throws coach, yelled “Come on!” as the hammer arced through the air, and the hammer wisely responded by traveling 66.94m, which would turn out to be Veldman’s best throw of the day. I asked Deal later if he was optimistic about the state of the hammer in this country. “When I see a big guy like Cory Martin throw with great technique rather that just muscling it? When I see Boldi Kocsor three-turn seventy-meters? Yeah, I’m optimistic.”

 

The Auburn boys provided further justification for that optimism in round three, as Martin hit 72.43m (and once again hung his head in disappointment) and Dunkleberger grabbed second place with a 70.51m toss. Rounding out the top five at the break were Kocsor, Agafonov, and Virginia Tech’s Matej Muza in fifth with a third round 68.18m which delighted his small but vocal fan base so much that one of them screamed, “Let’s go get some pizza!” Muza, showing remarkable restraint for a thrower, declined the offer and stuck around for three more throws. It was a wise choice on his part, because his best was still to come.

 

So was Dunkelberger’s. Throwing eighth in round four he showed he was not ready to relinquish his title just yet.  Clayton told us that Dunkleberger had been feeling sluggish during the last part of the season and had complained that the implement felt heavy, “So we mixed in some throws with an overweight implement to try to get him to work the ground better.” Mission accomplished.  Dunkelberger stepped in and smoked a 72.98m to take over first and set another new stadium record.

 

There was some late round maneuvering among the rest of the field as Agafonov jumped into third with 69.92m and Muza tightened his grip on fifth with a 69.83m, but everyone’s attention focused on the Auburn boys. Martin answered Dunkelberger’s bomb with a 72.77m. Dunkelberger hit 71.90m in round five. Martin replied with 71.36m. Dunkelberger finished the day with a sixth round 69.72m and then stepped aside as Martin entered the ring for the final throw of the day. We asked Martin later what was going through his head at that moment. “Just that it was time to lay it all on the line, not worry about fouling or whatever. Just put everything into it. I really had nothing to lose, so why not go for it?”  As his throw hung in the air he bellowed, “Go!” The crowd roared when the hammer planted well beyond the 70-meter line. It measured out to 74.13m, a new PR for Martin and, of course, a new stadium record.

 

We spoke with Coach Clayton after the competition, and I was struck with how gracious and humble he was. If anyone had reason to crow at that moment, it was him, but he gave all the credit to Martin and Dunkelberger, praising their competitiveness and willingness to accept coaching. Before we parted ways, I asked if he thought that Martin would have anything left for the shot. “I think the hammer takes more out of your legs than the other throws do,” he replied. “And, of course, you’ve got the big three in the shot, Whiting, Winger, and Lloyd. But I’d never count Cory out.”

 

 

Women’s Discus

 

Having gained momentum in the hammer, the ASU women spent the discus competition handing out extra-large slices of whupass pie.

 

The first three rounds saw ASU’s Tai Battle locked in a struggle for first place with Texas Tech’s D’Andra Carter. Battle improved on each of her first three attempts, culminating with a PR of 55.69m in round three. Carter stayed close with her own round- three bomb of 55.34m.  Sarah Stevens, fresh off of her third place finish in the hammer, stuck a round two 53.44m which temporarily put her in third place here as well.  Stevens and her teammate Jessica Pressley both had to report to the discus almost immediately after the completion of the hammer, and the quick turnaround may have flustered Pressley a bit, as she fouled her first two attempts and stepped in for round three facing elimination.

 

Stevens told us later that having teammates competing in the same flight really helped the ASU throwers to stay calm in high-pressure situations. She also credited her coach, Dave Dumble. “He’s always so relaxed and positive, he makes it easy for us to be that way.” Dumble, the former UCLA discus All-American who has built a powerhouse throws program at ASU, was a very busy man on this day, at one point having to hobble back and forth between the women’s hammer and men’s discus where Ryan Whiting ended up finishing ninth. I say “hobbled” because Coach Dumble spent the weekend on crutches after injuring himself demonstrating how to throw on a wet ring during a practice meant to prepare for the forecasted Iowa rains. “I’m thirty-two years old now,” he explained sheepishly. “Not as young as I used to be.”

 

Whether due to girl power, positive coaching, or simply out of determination to “win one for the gimper,” Pressley came through with a throw of 49.48m in round three, which put her in eighth place and qualified her for three more throws.

 

At the break, the top five consisted of Battle (55.69m), Carter (55.34m), Stevens (53.44m), McKenzie Garberg of WashingtonState (51.68m) and Khadija Talley of Miami (51.09m).

 

During warm-ups prior to the final three rounds, Stevens picked up a towel and performed several dry throws in the ring. She told us later that she felt like she had a big throw in her if she could just find her rhythm.

 

It turns out her suspicions were correct, as she nailed a fourth-round 56.14m to vault into first.

 

Battle responded with a 55.41m, and Carter finished her day with a 55.04m toss in the sixth round, but those were the only two throws that came close to matching Stevens. Meanwhile, Pressley finished with a sixth-round 50.27m which lifted her into seventh place and secured two more precious points for ASU.

 

After the competition, an ecstatic Stevens ran up the hill among the spectators to celebrate with her family and friends. Only a junior, she’s already experienced a lifetime’s worth of ups and downs at championship meets including a victory in the indoor shot in 2007, and a big disappointment in last year’s discus competition when she was favored to win but did not make the final.

 

After each event, the top eight finishers were escorted through the media room and we found Stevens there radiant and surprisingly articulate at the end of what must have been an exhausting day. I asked her how she was able to keep her energy over this long day of competition. “It’s easy, because this is what I love to do. Actually, throwing the hammer first today probably helped me in the discus because it let me work off some of my nervous energy.”

 

By the time the throws finished up on Friday, Tim and I were exhausted as well. We dazedly watched a few running events, then headed to our hotel where we were again reminded of the flooding that was causing havoc all over Iowa. Some members of a minor league baseball team in town to play the Iowa Cubs were lounging around the lobby speculating on whether or not the flooded baseball stadium could be made ready for a game. “I don’t think so,” I overheard one of them say. “The groundskeeper told me there’s fish swimming in the dugouts.”

 

I also overheard a stranded railroad employee telling the desk clerk about an empty train that had been intentionally parked on a bridge over one of the swelling rivers as a way of helping to stabilize the bridge. The river swept away both the empty train and the bridge.

 

The nightly news reported that many buildings in downtown Des Moines were flooding, including the jail, which had to be evacuated. That explained the convoy of busses we’d seen leaving town as we drove in Friday afternoon.

 

 

Saturday, June 14th

 

Another surreal day. The morning news was dominated by images of flooding and evacuation, including a photo of a river running directly over Highway 80, the route Tim and I had hoped to take home that evening. There were also calls for volunteers to fill sandbags in downtown Des Moines. Once again, though, conditions at the track were perfect. And the people working the meet, the police officers directing traffic outside the stadium, the concession workers, the security guard who jumped up to open the door to the media room each time Tim and I approached, were remarkably polite and helpful as if they had nothing else in the world to be concerned about other than the comfort of the spectators. Amazing.

 

 

Women’s Shot  

 

The field was loaded with former champions. Sarah Stevens won indoors in 2007. Jessica Pressley won outdoors in 2007. Mariam Kevkhishvilli, a native of the Republic of Georgia, won the 2008 indoor title throwing for the University of Florida.

 

Once again, the ASU women carried with them the pressure of keeping their team in the championship hunt, and once again they handled it magnificently.

 

Susan King of Memphis set the pace in the first round with a 17.02m toss, but Pressley, exhibiting a beautifully smooth spin technique, took over the lead for good in round two with a put of 17.94m.  King launched her best throw of the day, 17.68m, in round three. Kevkishvilli, a glider, hit her best throw of 17.43m in round three as well. Kevkishvilli seemed a bit uncomfortable and repeatedly looked to her coach in the stands for guidance as to where to line up her right foot at the back of the ring. We asked her about this afterwards, and she told us that her coach, from his vantage point, felt that the left foul line was incorrectly angled and wanted to be sure that Mariam did not throw that way. From where we were sitting, we could not tell if there was a problem with the foul line, but I wonder if worrying about it may have cost Kevkishvilli some of her focus.

 

The most exciting moment of the first three rounds came when Northern Iowa’s Rachel Jansen, sitting on two fouls, drilled a PR of 17.36m. Jansen has a very aggressive spin technique with a violent right-leg action that caused Tim to dub her “Mrs. Kovago” after the Hungarian discus thrower. Jansen’s throw moved her into fourth place and caused a joyous celebration among her fans.

 

Also in this eventful third round, Stevens hit her best throw of the outdoor season, 17.21m, to take over fifth place.

 

At the break, Stevens and Pressley came over to the stands to confer with Coach Dumble. He gave them technical advice, encouraging Pressley to let her right leg get ahead out of the back and Stevens to slow her shoulders and hit a more wrapped power position. The girls smiled frequently as he gently encouraged them, and I was impressed by their demeanor. In the middle of this pressure-packed competition the three might as well have been sitting around a Starbucks enjoying iced lattes. I complimented Dumble on his coaching style later that afternoon, and he told me that one of his former throwers who ended up studying sports psychology advised him that the best way to give technical suggestions was to sandwich them between two positive comments. I think most coaches would agree that it is best to stay upbeat during high-pressure competitions, but agreeing with it and actually doing it when your knee is killing you and the success of your team depends on your throwers amassing ungodly amounts of points is a whole different matter.  Staying calm, though, seems to come naturally to the amiable Dumble, and his even-temperedness combined with his technical expertise make him a masterful coach.

 

With Kevkhishvilli off her game it seemed during the final three rounds that if anyone was going to catch Pressley it would have to be King, an aggressive and explosive athlete. But Pressley extended her lead with a round five 18.13m and the strain of trying to match that caused King to foul her final three attempts, including one that landed outside the left sector in round six. It looked to me like Pressley’s superior technique made the difference. Each of her throws was smooth and balanced. She’d sweep a long right leg through the right half of the ring and let that carry her out of the back. All of her momentum traveled down the center of the ring and out into the throw. King, on the other hand, seemed to use her shoulders to develop momentum out of the back. This caused her to tip towards the left foul line and, when the heat was on, made it difficult to stay in the ring.

 

On her final throw, Patience Knight of Texas Tech hit 17.26m to knock Stevens down to sixth. But it was another great day for Dumble’s women, who finished the weekend with a total of forty-four points.

 

Afterwards, Pressley, having successfully defended her title, dedicated her performance as a birthday present to her father. Like Stevens, she was gracious and articulate in victory, deflecting credit to the coaching of Dumble and the support of her teammates. I, for one, hope that Pressley finds a way to continue throwing as she looks to have the potential to some day succeed on the international level.

 

 

 

 

Women’s Javelin

 

Near the end of the women’s shot, the stadium announcer encouraged spectators to head over to watch the women’s javelin final which “featured four of the best throwers in NCAA history.” I’m not sure if Oregon’s Rachel Yurkovich was one of those “four greats” referred to by the announcer, but she came out on top in this competition.

 

The first three rounds featured a tight battle between Yurkovich, New   Mexico’s Katie Coronado, Nebraska’s Kayla Wilkinson, Purdue’s Kara Patterson, and Andrea Kvetova of SMU.  Yurkovich opened the proceedings with a toss of 52.53m and followed that up with 53.94m in the second round. Patterson (53.39m) and Kvetova (54.47m) stayed close, while Wilkinson briefly took the lead with her second round throw of 54.60m. Yurkovich responded with 54.71m to retake the lead in the third round. Also in that round, Coronado moved into fourth place with a 54.11m toss.

 

At the break, the top three were separated by little more that half a meter, but Yurkovich broke things open with her fifth round toss of 56.58m, the eventual winner. Meanwhile, Coronado moved into second with her final throw of 54.71m. Wilkinson’s 54.60 held up for third, with Kvetova and Patterson rounding out the top five.

 

Yurkovich later told the Oregon athletics website that she “was really nervous going in, but once I got on the field, my goal was just to keep improving with each throw and it turned out great in the end.”

 

Tim and I found Lance Deal, Yurkovich’s coach, after the competition and asked if he was able to lend some of his vast experience to his athletes as they competed over this weekend. “They probably get sick of hearing all my stories. This morning I told them about the time at the World Championships that I traveled forty-five minutes by bus to a practice area then opened my bag and found out I’d packed two left shoes. I just wanted to remind them that everyone is human.”  Just then, Yurkovich, fresh off the awards stand, came along and enveloped her coach in a long embrace.

 

 

Men’s Shot

 

The men’s shot, the most highly anticipated throwing event of the weekend, began much like the men’s discus, with a tentative first three rounds. Whiting set the pace with a first round 19.83m, but did not look especially comfortable. He’s an interesting thrower, Whiting. There were probably half a dozen putters in the final with more refined technique, including Winger and all three Arizona guys. He tends to stay on his left a long time coming out of the back, something that Dumble told me was a result of relying on his upper body strength to initiate his spin. But he seems to have an innate gift of being able to generate a tremendous amount of force. Watching him, I was reminded of having seen John Godina throw the shot in 1998 or Robert Fazekas throw the disc in 2003. Those guys could just bring it better than any of their competitors, and so can Whiting. If he stays healthy for two more years of working with Dumble, and develops some of the rhythm that Godina possessed, holy cow.

 

Winger’s first throw was a sector foul down the right side, as was his final attempt in the discus the day before. It seemed like he was just pulling the trigger a little early, which is understandable in a meet like this, but he needed to find his timing if he wanted to hang with Whiting.

 

The Arizona throwers, Zach Lloyd, Shawn Best, and Jarred Sola, looked very smooth, although none produced big throws in the first round. Lloyd hit 18.35m, Best reached 18.52m, and Sola settled for 17.74m.  Cory Martin, fresh off his big win in the hammer on Friday, produced a first round 18.33m.

 

The second round developed similarly to the first, without much in the way of fireworks. Whiting fouled. Winger looked tentative but locked up a spot in the final nine with a toss of 18.84m.  Lloyd improved to 19.19m, but did not look at all pleased with his effort. Martin showed some life with a 19.32m, which moved him to second.

 

Whiting extended his lead in round three with a throw of 20.24m.  Winger, looking ever more frustrated, again threw down the right side of the sector and did not improve on his second round toss. Lloyd seemed to find a bit of comfort and moved into second place with a throw of 19.35m.

 

After three rounds, Whiting held the lead by nearly a meter, but neither he nor anyone else looked happy with their performance. Dumble told us later that Whiting said the throwing surface was kind of slow, and this may have crossed up the rotational throwers. The lone glider among the twelve finalists, Justin Clickett of Virginia Tech, could not seem to get comfortable with his release.  Maybe it was the pressure. Maybe these guys were a bit gassed at the end of a long season. Just about all of them compete in two events outdoors and some in even more. Julie Taylor, the Idaho throws coach told us that Winger, though sick with the flu at the time, insisted on throwing the shot, disc, hammer and javelin at their conference meet. That can exact a toll even on these great athletes.

 

Several throwers ratcheted up their aggressiveness after the break. Winger charged into second place with a 19.63m effort, by far his most comfortable and vocal throw of the day.  Martin, throwing next, matched Winger’s yell and bettered his toss by hitting 19.89m.  Lloyd then produced his best effort of the day, 19.40m, to remain in fourth.  Whiting finished the round with a 19.78m toss.

 

The fifth round was uneventful until Martin stepped in and consolidated his hold on second with a throw of 20.16m. Whiting fouled his fifth attempt, and so entered the final round with his lead cut to eight centimeters.

 

Winger finished a fantastic college career with his best throw of the day, 19.73m, to take third. Cory Martin entered the ring next, needing a PR to overtake Whiting. During the warm-ups between rounds three and four, Martin uncorked a big throw that traveled in a higher arc than any of his other tosses. From his perch in the stands, Jerry Clayton now gestured to Martin to raise the shot up as he turned into the power position so he could once again find that higher arc. After the competition, Martin told us that he trusted Clayton so much he’d, “eat dog poop if Coach told me it would make me throw better.” In this case, just raising the shot a bit sufficed, as Martin unleashed a high, arcing bomb that measured 20.35m and put him in first.

 

Next up was Lloyd, who fouled what looked like a big throw and had to settle for fourth place. It all came down to Whiting’s final attempt.  Whiting showed at the indoor meet that he is quite capable of hammering a big throw under pressure, and he kept his wits about him here. But his final effort, 19.98m, though more than respectable was not enough to overtake Martin who became the first man since 1922 to win the NCAA hammer and shot.

And thus ended a fantastic weekend of competition. Thanks to Glenn for commissioning us to cover the meet. Thanks to Tim for his navigational skill, moral support, and technical expertise in figuring out how to work the tape recorder. Thanks to all the athletes and coaches who patiently spoke into that recorder. Thanks especially to the people of Des Moines for hosting a great meet under very difficult circumstances.

-Dan McQuaid is an English teacher and throws coach at Wheaton North High School

-Tim Batten is a 2008 graduate of Wheaton North

by Dan McQuaid

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