Category Archives: Uncategorized

So my wife is standing in line at Disney World…

stipe wife


…when she hears some guy standing behind her talking about shot putting. She strikes up a conversation with him, and while they converse my daughter sends me a text (I was home, teaching and coaching and slaving away so that my girls could enjoy a nice long weekend in Orlando but I am in no way bitter about this). The text said…”We are in line for a beer at Germany and there is literally a young Arnold Schwarzenegger behind us. He could be a world class thrower and is with a group of guys that could be your throwers…It’s hilarious.”

(When she said that they “could be your throwers” I assumed she meant that they were afraid of girls and could not stop talking about food and video games, but she left out the specifics.)

Anyway, it turns out that this “young Arnold Schwarzenegger” was none other than NCAA indoor shot put national champion Stipe Zunic.

And when my wife (her name, by the way, is Alice Wood) sent me this photo, I realized that it was time for me to check in with Stipe’s coach, Steve Lemke.

The shot competition at the NCAA outdoor meet should be flat out epic. Here are the NCAA leaders at this point in the season:
To put this in perspective, my good friend Shawn Schleizer finished 8th at the 1994 NCAA Outdoor Championships with a toss of 18.43m. That would place him 48th on the above list.
Which makes me wonder what kind of human beings Mother Nature is creating these days as Shawn, even at his advanced age, could walk into a weight room right now, snatch 100k, and punch out an entire motorcycle gang.
But I digress.
Stipe, it turns out, is doing quite well, thank you very much. His outdoor best of 20.38m has him fourth on the leader board behind Ryan Crouser, Derrell Hill, and Jonathan Jones. And he has put a pulled quad, an early-spring bout of the flu, and a determination to finally visit Disney World for the first time after residing in Florida for five years behind him.
Also squarely in the rear view mirror is his once-thriving career as a javelin thrower.
Stipe and Coach Lemke had discussed the possibility of of taking one final crack at chucking the spear, but neither the SEC nor the NCAA championship schedules line up correctly for a young man wishing to pull off the rare jav/shot double.
According to Coach Lemke, this is just as well  because Stipe’s body is “no longer built for the javelin.”
I can relate.
Stipe is certainly built to put  the shot, though, and after checking one lingering item  (“visit to Disney World” ) off of his bucket list he is ready for the next challenge: face down a ferocious field to claim his first NCAA outdoor shot put title.

Of Manatees and Germans

So every day at the beginning of class I show my students the “BBC One-Minute World News.” The BBC generally covers topics like genocide and terrorism, just the thing to get a bunch of sixteen-year-olds excited about semicolons, but every once in a while they sneak in a fun story about koala bears or some such, and a few weeks ago they featured a manatee named Snooty who lives in Bradenton, Florida, and is the oldest captive manatee in the universe.

I could not wait to show my daughter KC some Snooty vids when I got home that night (turns out he is all over Youtube) as she loves animals as much as I do and and suffers as grievously as I do over the fact that my wife forbids us from owning one.

We gave up arguing long ago as the wife is an attorney and we know that crossing her means spending the winter living in the shed.

But the wife loves to travel, and it does not take much convincing to get her to head to Florida for spring break.

And truth be told, she loves animals as much as KC and me, as long as someone else is in charge of taking care of them. So she was happy to book us a flight to Tampa and a hotel room on the beach in Sarasota (just ten miles from Snooty and Bradenton). Here, by the way, is Snooty:


Truth be told, I had an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Bradenton. Last August, at the European Championships in Zurich, I struck up a friendship with Torsten Schmidt, one of the throws coaches in the German national system, and I knew that Torsten and his training group were going to be spending a couple of weeks at the IMG Academy in…Bradenton.

That’s right,  Snooty the Manatee and German discus throwers in…the…same…place.

No, I will not shut up.

So we (me, my wife Alice, KC, and KC’s extremely affable friend Eileen) caught a flight to Tampa at the crack of dawn last Sunday, and that night Alice, Torsten, and I sat down for an excellent seafood dinner not far from the IMG campus.

Torsten, who threw the disc for Germany in the 2004 Olympics, is an extremely tall, extremely affable man who admits to two obsessions aside from throwing: television and cake.

He and his training group (Julia Fischer, Robert and Chris Harting) had recently dined at the Cheesecake Factory, an experience he spoke of  with great reverence.

“I hear they have really good hamburgers,” my wife interjected.

“No,” he corrected her. “I do not go to the Cheesecake Factory to eat burgers. I go to eat cake.”

Four pieces, apparently. Two double chocolate and two Oreo.

In addition to the quality of the local cake, Torsten had other reasons to be happy. Robert’s recovery from knee surgery (he tore his ACL last September) seemed to be going well. Chris had been throwing practice PR’s. And Julia had, that very day, made a breakthrough when Robert suggested she try an abbreviated windup.


We celebrated by inhaling seafood together. During the meal, I peppered Torsten with questions about German throwing technique while my wife graciously offered advice on his relationship with his girlfriend, Sanna,  “The man should always say yes,” she told him. “Then you will both be happy!”

After we dropped Torsten back at IMG, my wife gave him the ultimate compliment: “He has a good aura.”

The next day, the girls tried to kill me with exercise by making me join them on a kayaking tour of the local waterways. Afterwards, even my aura was sore.

On Tuesday, we got to meet Snooty. And he did not disappoint.

Snooty lives what could accurately be described as “the good life.” Come to think of it, he and my daughter have a lot in common.

Both consume massive amounts of vegetables.

Both like to spend their days floating around looking cute.

(Here is my little manatee)


Both have been raised entirely in captivity, and would be unlikely to survive in the wild (“wild” in my daughter’s case meaning any town where you’d have to walk farther than 100 meters to find a Starbucks).

At least my daughter feeds herself, though. Do you see Snooty in the background of this picture? He is looking up at a pile of vegetables that he knows are meant for him.


He won’t touch them, however, until one of his handlers…


…leans over and offers them to him bit by bit.

That woman and her fellow Snooty-keepers spend several hours per day shoving produce into Snooty’s snoot.

And forgive me for digressing, but to those of you who have been contemplating switching to a vegan diet in order to lose weight, who looks better–the meat-eater with his elbow on the rail, or the 800-pound vegetarian floating in the background? I thought so.

Anyway, it turns out that Snooty often shares his home with various injured or traumatized manatees who will at some point be returned to the wild. These sorry creatures are forced to fend for themselves at feeding time so that they do not get too comfortable with humans. Here is Snooty’s current roomie wrestling his dinner from the clutches of a traffic cone:


This youngster currently weighs in at 500 pounds which, in the manatee world, qualifies him as emaciated. He will not be released from Chez Snooty until he hits the 800 mark.

After bidding a reluctant farewell to Snooty and his anorexic friend, we headed for  IMG and what I anticipated to be the highlight (sorry Snooty!)of the trip: watching Torsten’s group practice.

As previously mentioned, Torsten’s group consists of three discuswerfers, and the first to begin werfing  in this particular session was Robert Harting.

After several years under the tutelage of Werner Goldmann, Harting asked Torsten to take over his training in November of 2013. Watching them interact on this absolutely gorgeous Florida evening, I could tell that they were a good match.

I’ve never seen Harting practice before, so I don’t know if this was typical, but he approached this session with great focus and intensity. There was no laughing. No small talk. No smiling, even. He conferred with Torsten after each attempt, whether a stand or full, and seemed utterly intent on finding a way to make the next throw go farther.

It reminded me of the stories you used to hear around Chicago of Michael Jordan and his approach to training. There was no such thing as a meaningless drill or scrimmage when Jordan was involved. Even after the Bulls started winning titles, he practiced with a fury that few could match.

That’s why Phil Jackson was the perfect coach for Jordan. Naturally laid-back, Phil could interact with Jordan without inciting him. In fact, it is hard to imagine Jordan flourishing under a coach with an aggressive, “in your face” style.

I suspect that Robert and Torsten have a similar relationship. Robert listened intently to Torsten’s advice after each attempt, but that advice was delivered in a quiet, reassuring tone.

This relationship may be the very thing that gets Harting through this difficult period of recovery from major knee surgery. When you are used to being the strongest, toughest mothertrucker in your entire sport the prospect of losing your edge, of falling back to the pack must be agonizing. Obviously, Robert did not anticipate this situation when he signed on with Torsten, but in the end it may prove to be the smartest move he has ever made.

After Harting had thrown for 45 minutes or so, Julia Fischer arrived at the ring. This is an important season for Julia, who was to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday the following day.


The 2011 Under-23 European Champion, Julia finished fifth in Zurich last August and needs to raise her game a notch if she is to contend for a medal in Beijing and Rio.

As noted above, Torsten was really happy with the progress Julia made during their time in Florida, but this was her second throwing session of the day and, probably owing to fatigue, she fell into the habit of yanking her head a bit at the finish of her throws many of which sailed off beyond the right foul line.

Torsten and Robert took turns adjusting her technique, largely without success. Towards the end of her session she took extra time to gather herself between throws, and this seemed to help. Either way, she finished the session in good spirits and I would not be surprised to see her make a breakthrough this summer.

I hope so. She seems like a very nice person and she is clearly a fine, fine athlete.

The final member of the group to arrive at the cage was Chris Harting, Robert’s younger brother. Chris is in a situation similar to that of Julia as he is just on the cusp of throwing far enough to make noise at the international level (his PB is 64.99m).

chris harting

In order to represent Germany in Beijing this August, Chris must have one of the top three throws by a German man after April 1st (This does not include Robert, as the defending champion gets an automatic entry). With Martin Wierig and Daniel Jasinski leading a strong group of contenders, Chris, like Julia needs to have a breakout year.

We chatted a bit as he worked to loosen up a slightly strained back prior to taking his throws, and he seemed pleased with the progress he had made this off-season and confident about his prospects come the summer.

Unfortunately for me, I did not get to see Chris take any serious throws as in order to give his back a break Torsten limited him to a few left-handed stands.

Yes, you read that correctly. Left-handed stands.

According to Torsten, it is very important that throwers take regular attempts left-handed. Stands. Half-turns. Even fulls. He told a great story about the recently retired German shot putter Ralf Bartels watching the former Olympic discus champ Virgilius Alekna struggle to break the 65-meter line at a practice session. Ralf could not figure out what was troubling the giant Lithuanian until he finally noticed that Virgilius was launching those 60-meter-plus throws…left handed.

Torsten says that throwing left-handed forces right-handed throwers to think about positions and thus helps them to gain a deeper understanding of their technique.

The session ended with Chris whanging a couple of left-handed stands into the cage.

A few minutes later, my wife returned to pick me up and Torsten and I said our goodbyes.

It should be a very interesting summer for his training group.

Torsten, if you read this, thanks loads for greatly expanding my understanding of discus technique.

Sanna, if you read this, take it from my wife, you’ve got yourself a great guy.

Snooty, if you read this, you are a hell of a lot smarter than you look.

Alice, my wife, if you read this…I’m thrilled to be your husband, even if you won’t let me have a dog.

Now, how about a manattee?  They’re cute. They don’t bark. They don’t need to be walked. They…uhhh, what did I do with that key to the shed?



















Stipe Zunic can kick your butt!

stipe euro


In so very many ways.

Bench pressing?

He has put up  570lbs.

Javelin throwing?

He is a two-time All-American.


He is a former Junior World Champion in kickboxing.

stipe boxer


Shot putting?

Hmmm. A couple years ago, you might have had a chance. But since Stipe and his coach at the University of Florida, Steve Lemke, decided sixteen months ago to focus exclusively on that event  Zunic has made quite a bit of progress.

At the time, Stipe was recovering from shoulder and elbow surgery and Coach Lemke hoped, with a lot of hard work, to help him become an 18-meters-plus shot putter who could score points for his team at the 2014 SEC meet.

Turns out he did score points at that meet. In fact, he ended up winning…with a toss of 20.52m.

Then, last August he upped his PR to 20.68m and finished fourth while representing his native Croatia at the European Championships .

After a fall and winter spent refining his technique (Coach Lemke says that Stipe can be inconsistent with his sweep coming out of the back and sometimes gets a little tall in the middle of the ring) Stipe returned to Europe two weeks ago and set a new Croatian national record of 20.67m during the prelims of the European Indoor Championships in Prague.

The Stipe Express was briefly derailed by a jet-lagged night before the finals spent staring sleeplessly at the walls of his hotel room–he finished a disappointing 7th place with a throw of 20.28m–and who could blame him if he showed up at the University of Arkansas for the NCAA Indoor Championships a week later throwing like a man greatly in need of some alone time?

With triple NCAA champion Ryan Crouser of Texas leading a loaded field into Fayetteville, I’m not sure how many people other than Stipe figured he had a chance to win.

But, Stipe’s greatest asset right now in the shot (aside from size, strength, balance, and ridiculous hops) might be the fact that he is so new to the event it doesn’t occur to him that he should not be…well…great at it just yet.

I asked Coach Lemke if he and Stipe were worried about the surface of the ring in Fayetteville (it was  apparently quite rough) and he said that when they practiced at the facility on Thursday the condition of the ring never came up.

“Stipe has great balance and plenty of horsepower,” Lemke told me later,”and he is so new to the event that he didn’t know to worry about the surface of the ring. We never even discussed it.”

Apparently there was no need to, as during the competition on Saturday Stipe broke 20 meters on each of his six throws, including a third-round 20.85m which put him solidly into first until Crouser answered with 20.90m, and a fifth-round 21.11m which put him back into first and allowed him to hold off Crouser’s round six toss of 20.93m.

So when will Stipe finally get some well-deserved rest?

Good question.

With only two weeks until the Texas Relays and two months before another outdoor SEC meet and three months before the outdoor NCAAs and six months before the World Championships in Beijing?

That’s a lot of asses waiting to be kicked.

Rest will just have to wait.








John Smith loses an argument…and gains an NCAA champion

raven ncaa

Okay, I don’t know if it was a full-blown argument.

But John Smith, throws coach at Southern Illinois University, is a man who makes decisions based on data. So, if you are going to disagree with him, especially on something as important as how to get ready to throw bombs at the NCAA Indoor Championship, well…you’d better present a solid case.

According to Coach Smith, 80% of throwers perform better in big meets if they lift the day before. So when it came time to set up a training schedule for freshman phenom Raven Saunders as she prepared for last Saturday’s competition in Fayettville, he naturally penciled her in  for a lifting session on Friday.

It turns out, however, that during her national-record-setting high school career Raven had become accustomed to lifting two days prior to a big competition and then resting completely the day before. It worked for her then, and she insisted to Smith that, in spite of his data, it would work for her now.

The resulting impasse was finally settled when Smith called Raven’s high school coach, who confirmed that Raven responded well after lifting two days prior to a competition.

Smith caved, and told me later that the recommendations of Raven’s high school coach “likely won her a title.”

It turns out that Saunders needed every bit of whatever it is you get from peaking properly, as LSU’s Tori Bliss (who, by the way, attended the same high school as Coach Smith) blasted a fifth round PR of 18.32m to knock Raven and her third round best of 18.22m into second place on Saturday.

After Tori’s distance was announced, Smith told himself that he was “about to find out what I’ve got here.”

“When someone hits a PR ahead of you, you either die or attack,” he said afterwards.

Apparently preferring the latter, Raven barged into the ring and notched her own PR–an 18.62m bomb that was long enough to withstand Tori’s final round 18.47m.

One other bit of preparation may also have made a big difference for Raven.

In the weeks leading up to the NCAA Championships, Smith was told by a fellow coach that the newly-poured concrete rings in Fayettville were extremely rough.

To acclimate his throwers to a slow surface, he attached a toe board to a hammer insert and placed it on a mondo surface. For two weeks leading up to to the NCAA’s, that is what his throwers practiced on.

It took a while to get used to it, but based on the results (four All-American finishes) Smith’s throwers seemed well prepared on their arrival in Arkansas.



The Prospect from Prospect Comes Up Big

babicz 3


So I’m at the Illinois state track meet a few years ago and on the day of the prelims it is cold and raining and the discus flights are delayed several hours. They finally start warmups for the flight that my athlete is in, and it is slow going.

Every kid has to wipe off the ring before his warmup throw, and even then the footing is dicey.

So, of course, the official in charge of this particular flight ignores the conditions and strictly enforces a 20-minute warmup period, which means that each kid gets in the ring twice.

My kid, who had come up big at the sectional the week before when he threw a PR of 155′ to qualify for the state meet, was totally rattled by the situation. The disc looked like it weighed about twelve pounds  when it left his half-frozen hand, and the best he could muster on his three prelim throws at state was 135 feet.

I wasn’t mad at him, because under those conditions it was hard to imagine anyone throwing far.

And yet…

There was this kid from Prospect High who did not exactly look ummm….gazelle-like moving through the ring, but seemed very strong and very determined.

I don’t remember how far he threw that day, but it was enough to move on to the final where he threw even farther and earned a spot on the podium.

Later on, someone told me that his name was Matt Babicz, and this was his first year in the sport.

The following year, this prospect from Prospect reached the 180’s and then…I wasn’t sure what happened to him.

He lacked the lanky looseness common to premier discus prospects, and also lacked the kind of shot put prowess (his high school PR was 57 feet) that would have attracted attention in that event.

It turns out that he ended up in the perfect place: Depaul University in Chicago, Illinois, under the care of throws coach Brandon Murer.

And it didn’t take Coach Murer long to figure out that this thick, tough, explosive-aggressive young man was best suited to throw the shot in college.

When Matt arrived on campus, he informed Coach Murer that he intended to be a discus thrower.

The first time he tried throwing the 16-lb shot he barely broke the 13-meter barrier.

But he finished his freshman campaign with a shot PR of 16.84m and a disc PR of 48.13m and started to realize that maybe, just maybe, coach knew what he was talking about.

As a sophomore he was Big East champion in the shot with a career-best throw of 18.33m.

The following year was lost to shoulder surgery.

Last year, Matt was again Big East champion and, in spite of a finger injury (the plague of many if not all shot putters) he hit 19.47m and qualified for nationals.

Surgery last summer relieved him of a couple of bone chips in a knuckle on his throwing hand and, combined with the maturity that all coaches hope to see in their veteran athletes (Matt now understands the importance of regular stretching, regular treatment for various aches and pains inherent to shot putting, and regular shall-we-say hitting of efficient positions rather than rushing through the throw) set him up for a very successful senior year.

In spite of his recent surgical experiences, Matt has been able to squat over 500 pounds and bench over 400 pounds.

More importantly, he has recently been named Depaul’s Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Oh, and by the way, he blasted a PR of 19.96 meters at Notre Dame’s Alex Wilson Invitational on February 21st to secure a spot in this year’s incredibly-competitive NCAA indoor championships.

And though he will be going up against the likes of Ryan Crouser and Stipe Zunic (4th place finisher at last year’s European Championships) don’t count this guy out.

I’ve seen him compete in less-than-ideal conditions.  He came up big then, and he may very well do the same this weekend.


The Next Croatian Sensation

stipe 4

So my wife and I were stuck in a doctor’s office for nearly four hours this morning, which I imagine is a lot like spending time in purgatory but with less comfortable chairs.

The doctor was running two hours behind schedule, and it was becoming increasingly clear to me why Buddy the Elf started eating those cotton balls when I remembered that the European Indoor Championships started today. I’d had a very nice conversation with University of Florida throws coach Steve Lemke earlier in the week, and I was interested  to see how things were going for his shot putter, Stipe Zunic, who was in Prague representing Croatia.

Turns out things were going just fine.

So fine, in  fact, that when one of the nurses mentioned that she had grown up in Croatia, I was able to inform her that her country had a new indoor national shot put record of 20.67m.

She had no idea what a “shot put” was and seemed confused as to why I would be excited about a Croatian throwing one far, but my wife assured her that I was harmless, and something tells me that if I run into her again a couple of years from now, say after the 2016 Olympics, she’ll know all about the shot put and Stipe Zunic.

Recruited  out of Zadar, Croatia, Stipe was always, in the words of Coach Lemke, “a javelin thrower in a shot putter’s body.”

After earning All-American status in the jav as a freshman and sophomore, a shoulder injury forced Stipe to redshirt the 2013 season, and to consider becoming a shot putter in a shot putter’s body.

According to Coach Lemke, Stipe was so strong (he could bench 500 pounds) and athletic (he was a Junior World Champion in kick-boxing) that reaching 18 meters in the shot seemed like a realistic goal.

In  February of 2014, he threw 18.98m at the Texas A&M Invitational.

Outdoors, at the Texas Relays, he reached 19.30m.

Shortly thereafter, at the Florida State Twilight meet, he surpassed 19.80m four times and established a new PR of 19.52m

Then things started to get a little crazy.

20.52m at the conference meet.

20.60m at the NCAA East Preliminary Round.

A slightly disappointing 19.67m at the NCAA Championships.

And then a personal best of 20.68m at the European Championships last August.

I was at that competition, and I remember being confused because I had also been at the 2011 and 2012 NCAA championships when Stipe was still a javelin thrower.

Throughout the final in Zurich, I kept thinking “Wait, is that the same Stipe Zunic?”

The answer is “Yes and no.”

It is the same Stipe who placed in Des Moines in 2011 and 2012, but he  now weighs 286 pounds, benches 570, behind-the-neck jerks 455 and puts the shot 18 meters from the stand.

Coach Lemke says that Stipe has been reluctant to completely abandon the jav, and actually threw it at last year’s SEC outdoor championships but felt too “beat up” afterwards to throw again at the regional.

This year, they talked about having Stipe throw only the shot at the SEC meet then compete in both at the regional and NCAA finals, but that is not likely to happen now that the schedule for Eugene has been announced and the men’s shot and jav are to be held on the same day.

But, that’s still a ways down the road.

The European Indoor shot final is tomorrow, and if he can come away with a medal, Stipe will have taken another major step towards sharing the “Croatian Sensation” mantel with discus great Sandra Perkovic.

Here are Stipe’s throws from the qualification round:











Brittany Smith is ready for Nationals



Brittany Smith, the former NCAA all-American in the shot and hammer, is ready for her first big competition as a professional–the USATF Indoor Championships this coming weekend.

The women’s shot will be held on Sunday, March 1st, at 3:20pm Eastern time.

Brittany opened her indoor season on January 17th with a 19.01m bomb that, according to the Track and Field News website, is still the best throw in the world this year.

Here is that throw:


Brittany currently works as Director of Operations for the track and cross country programs at Illinois State University (her alma mater).

Unfortunately, this does not involve performing surgery. Instead, Brittany’s duties include arranging travel plans for meets and also creating itineraries for recruits when they visit the ISU campus.

On a typical day, she trains for an hour or two at the ISU facilities before reporting for work. If she needs to squeeze in a second training session on a given day, she has to figure out how to do it before 2:00 because the ISU fieldhouse tends to be packed between 2:00-8:00. Luckily, Smith’s office is in the same building as the fieldhouse, Her workday usually ends around 4:00

Greg Watson, the throws coach at Kansas State, writes Brittany’s throwing and lifting workouts. Greg also coaches Amanda Bingson, the current US  champion in the hammer.

Brittany met Watson last summer at the Chicagoland Throws Invite. She said that initially she was “too scared to approach him, then I got the courage to ask if he was interested, and he said ‘yes’ and now here we are.”

Eye witnesses have reported that Brittany’s boyfriend (and current Grand Valley State throws coach) Sean Denard made Watson an offer he could not refuse. Here is a photo of Sean from his college days at Mount Union:


Sources at Mount Union (who requested that their names not be divulged in this article) tell me that Sean grew that beard in approximately 17  minutes.

Coach Watson has Brittany on a Bondarchuk-style strength program which emphasizes quick movements rather than heavy poundage. This approach seems to suit her, and she says that she feels “very strong now.”

Brittany throws different weighted implements in training for full throws and for specific strength exercises. The heaviest ball she has thrown is 6k, which “forces me to slow down and hit the right positions because if I rush through the throw I’ll have to deal with the consequences of the ball coming off my hand and bending my fingers wrong, or landing on the toe board if I’m not positioned right.”

Her practice PR’s with the various implements include 20.11m with the 3k, 19.70m with the 3.5k, approximately 18.15m with the 4k, 17.20m with the 10lb, and 13.70m with the 6k.

For throws fans wondering if Smith will attempt to compete in both the shot and hammer this upcoming outdoor season, wonder no more. She will throw the shot only.

“As of right now, I have focused my attention 100% on the shot  put. I’m not ruling out that I will ever throw the hammer again, but my coach and I want to put our best foot forward toward making a couple of national teams the next couple of years, and we’ve decided to give all my time and energy to the shot in order to accomplish that.”

Opening this season at 19.01m was certainly a step in the right direction.

Brittany hopes to take another big step this Sunday.

Josh Freeman gets it rolling


After setting a Missouri Valley Championship outdoor record of 19.86m last spring, Southern Illinois putter Josh Freeman showed up for fall training ready to begin his assault on the venerable 20-meter mark.

Unfortunately, injury problems in the late fall have him, by his estimate, five weeks behind in his training.

Not a comfortable situation during a year in which it may well take somewhere in the mid-19 meter range  to qualify for the NCAA indoor championships.

This past weekend, though, Josh showed that he is catching up quickly as he hit a season-best 19.40m at the Fred Wilt Invitational hosted by Purdue University.

John Smith, Josh’s coach at SIU, said that in the week leading up to the Purdue meet Josh threw 56’8″ with a 20-pound shot, 61’2′ with an 18-pound shot, 65’8″ with a 15-pounder, and 69′ with a 6k.

Josh says that his bench and squat numbers are up 5-8% from last year, and that his hang cleans are up almost 15%.

In terms of technique, he has been concentrating on staying back more in the middle of the ring and giving his legs a chance to do more work.

Josh will compete this weekend at Eastern Illinois University in an effort to clinch a spot at the NCAA’s.


Raven Redux

raven 2

Looks like we are going to have to start getting used to this.

Another weekend, another American Junior record in the indoor shot for SIU’s Raven Saunders.

SIU throws coach John Smith sensed earlier in the week that this might be coming.

He said that during practice Raven put the 16-pound  shot 39’4″, the 12-pound shot 47’7″, the 8-pound shot 59′, and the 3k shot 63’10”.

So she was clearly in fighting trim.

Raven’s new Junior record of 17.99m should have a longer shelf life than her last, as she will not compete this coming weekend.

But with her conference meet on the horizon (Feb 28-March1) followed two weeks later by the NCAA Championships, will the record remain at 17.99m past mid-march?

Allow me to quote 97% of the girls I asked out in college as a way of answering that question:

“Not a chance, buddy.”



Raven Saunders grabs the US Junior indoor shot record



It took all of five collegiate competitions for high school national record-holder Raven Saunders to take over the American Junior indoor record in the shot.

Former UCLA great Seilala Sua set the previous mark (17.46m) in  1997. Raven took over the top spot with a 17.64m heave on her sixth throw at the SIU Invitational this past Saturday.

Here is a vid of that throw:

Raven brought some serious weight room numbers when she arrived on campus last fall (245 bench, 400 squat, 200 power clean) and SIU throws coach John Smith was determined to boost those numbers even higher.

He put Saunders on a high rep routine  of 10’s in bench and squats and 8’s in cleans during her first month in Carbondale and by mid-October she had benched 250 for a set of 6, squatted 375 for a set of 8, and hang cleaned 100k for a set of 8.

Coach Smith estimates that she is now 20-30% stronger than when she arrived on campus.

In terms of technique, John estimates that they have spent 95% of their throwing time teaching Raven how to use her legs. “Lots of non-reverse stands, half turns, giant steps, walking throws…also working on controlling her head. She likes to throw it harder than the shot. Heavy balls have been fixing a lot of this.”

Raven is now the fifth-ranked women’s putter in the US for the 2015 indoor season, and she seems poised to join SIU grad Jeneva McCall and recent Illinois State grad Brittany Smith in what should be a ferocious competition to represent the US in Beijing and Rio over the next two years.