What’s my cue?
Going into last week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, Arianna Ince knew what she had to do to make the squad for Worlds: finish in the top three and throw 60 meters.
That combination of results would give her a spot in the top 32 on the World Athletics Road to Oregon rankings and guarantee her a return trip to Eugene in mid July.
And it seemed eminently doable. “I knew I could nail 60 meters if I just hit two cues. I like to run down the runway as fast as I can, so it’s important that my left foot stays parallel to the foul line on my transition so my hips don’t open. Also, I have to leave the jav tip on my cheek as long as I can. That helps me keep the tip down and the jav back.”
Ari reminded herself of those cues often in the days and hours leading up to Saturday’s comp, and then when it came time for her first round throw, she promptly forgot them.
“I became obsessed with the distance,” she explained later. “And that usually doesn’t work.”
It certainly didn’t in this case, as Ari opened with 54.97m and a foul.
Fortunately, this was not Ari’s first time throwing in a high pressure situation. She made the Worlds team in 2017 and 2019, and the Olympic squad last summer.
So before her third attempt Ari took a breath and went through her pre-throw routine. “I will tap the side of my foot,” she explained. “Then withdraw the jav back to my eye. That provides some tactile feedback for my body to rely on and helps me refocus on what I’m trying to do.”
That did the trick. She tossed 60.42m in round three, and followed that with 60.43m in round four. That gives Ari confidence that she can make her first international championship final next month. “I went back to the cues and 60 meters came right out. Knowing I can do that after a shaky start, I’m really proud of that.”
Another confidence booster is the fact that she possesses the 15th best throw in the world this season–a 62.74m toss at Chula Vista in June. Even better, she is the only woman in the top 32 whose ranking points came almost entirely from competitions that took place during the past month.
I asked Ari how she managed to get on a roll at just the right time, and it turns out there is a very specific reason.
Aside from a few months during the peak of the pandemic when she went to live with Kara and Russ Winger in Colorado, the Elite Athlete Center in Chula Vista has been her training base since 2019. But, as of September, throwers will no longer be part of the Elite Athlete program there, so for the early part of this summer Ari spent a lot of psychic energy worrying about how and where she would continue her athletic career. Then, a little more than a month ago, she settled on a plan. I am not allowed to reveal the details of that plan here, but suffice it to say that Ari is now thoroughly excited about her future in the sport.
She credits that decision, that “feeling of certainty” with freeing her up to focus on throwing far. “All I have to worry about now is what’s going on on the runway,” she says. “And for a professional thrower, that’s the easy part.”
Too stubborn to quit
None of us will forget the cloud that fell over the world in March of 2020, but javelin thrower Tim Glover had been dealing with darkness for some time before the pandemic hit.
Tim, the 2011 and 2012 NCAA champion, had thrown well early in his pro career, but then suffered an elbow injury which required surgery and cost him the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Then, he was with his mother one day in the fall of 2018 when she received a call telling her that Tim’s sister had been found dead in her apartment in Chicago. He threw again in the 2019 season but injured his shoulder and had to have another surgery. That spring, his mother suffered a fatal heart attack.
Tim ended up moving to Virginia with his girlfriend, and started throwing a bit in the spring of 2021. “I was seven-stepping over 70 meters,” he says, “but I went back too hard too soon. My shoulder felt lousy, and after a while I knew there was no way I’d be throwing that season.”
He refused to hang it up, though. “I guess I was just too stubborn to quit. I didn’t want to let an injury take me out. I knew that my mom had wanted to see me get healthy and compete again, so I wanted to give it one more go.”
He had PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) therapy, rested his shoulder, and was finally able to experiment with a light jav this past March. After throwing 75.36m and 78.52m in two April comps, he showed that the “old guy” still had it by breaking 80 meters in each of his next two outings. It had been seven years since he last threw that far.
Even more remarkable was that Tim was surpassing 80 meters while rarely training with an actual javelin. “I only throw balls in practice,” he explained. “My shoulder still can’t take throwing a jav regularly. I pick once a week, but I never throw off a runway. You’d laugh if you could see how little I do in practice.”
He maintained that routine right up to the US Championships, where he finished fifth with a best of 76.37m. That was enough, though, to send him to Worlds. Entering Sunday’s comp, only Tim, Curtis Thompson and Michael Shuey had qualified (Shuey by hitting the standard, Tim and Curtis on ranking) but the University of Virginia’s Ethan Dabbs shocked everyone by tossing 81.29m for the win. That was enough to move him up forty places in the World Athletics rankings, so when the dust cleared, Shuey, who finished seventh on Sunday, was the odd man out.
It will be Tim’s first international championships, and he says that it might come down to a “coin flip” as far as whether he’ll retire afterwards. “I’d love to go out on making a big team for the first time,” he said. “I know my shoulder will never be one hundred percent. But the next Olympics is only two years away, so…we’ll see.”
What the heart wants
Maggie Ewen won the Diamond League shot put title last year, which earned her a bye into the 2022 Worlds. That made for a “weird” experience at USA’s. With no need to fight for a podium spot, Maggie did heavy cleans the day before the shot comp, and went in just hoping to road test some of the technical adjustments she’d been working on in practice.
She ended up finishing fifth with a toss of 18.79m, her best outdoor result since going 19.32m in Doha on May 13th.
The competition at World’s will be hellacious, with fellow American Chase Ealey, Canadian Sara Mitton, and Jiayuan Song of China all throwing past 20 meters in recent comps. Maggie has a PB of 19.79m, but going forward, will likely have to find a way to crack the 20-meter mark if she wants to get on an Olympic or World Championship podium.
Or, could there be another way?
During a wildly successful career at Arizona State that ended in 2018, she broke the collegiate record in the shot put (19.46m)…and in the hammer (74.56m).
She continued throwing both during the 2019 season and did quite well, thank you very much. She just missed making the Worlds squad in the hammer when she nailed a PB of 75.04m at the US Championships, and not only made the team in the shot but ended up finishing fourth at Worlds.
Things got complicated when the schedule for the 2020 Olympics came out and the women’s shot final was scheduled on the same day (and at the exact same time) as the women’s hammer qualification.
“My agent told me they petitioned to have it changed but got turned down,” Maggie recalled, “so I had to pick one. Then Covid happened, and I didn’t have a place to throw the hammer, so Kyle and I decided to just go forward with the shot and get that figured out.”
Kyle is Maggie’s coach, Kyle Long, and when competition resumed during the winter of 2021, they did in fact seem to have “figured out” the shot. Maggie belted a PB of 19.54m in February and seemed a sure bet to make the team for Tokyo. Her fourth-place finish at the Trials was a shocker, but she shook it off like a champ and went on to win the Diamond League Final.
When Maggie extended her PB to 19.79m at this year’s US Indoor Champs, most people probably assumed that she’d put the hammer away for good, but…
“Having a bye in the shot this year, we thought, ‘Why not pick up the hammer?’ Trying both again would give us a good idea of whether or not we can do this at an elite level.”
Maggie started tossing the hammer around shortly after the Indoor Worlds and integrated it into her practices as best she could when not on the road competing in the shot.
“We approached it a lot like during college days,” she explained. “We’d basically switch off every other day, and it really wasn’t that hard to find a balance. I was much busier in college when I was throwing the disc, too. Honestly, it’s been refreshing. I get in the habit of overthinking when I’m only doing shot, so it helps when I’m forced to take my mind off of it every other day.”
“And it felt great to be back throwing the hammer in that environment at USAs again and it was fun to be with the hammer girls. Each group of girls has their own little vibe, and it was amazing to be with them again.”
Make no mistake, though, Maggie did not enter last week’s hammer comp just to catch up with old friends. She had every intention of making the team, and came damn close to doing it. Her 72.70m in round six was a season’s best and a Worlds qualifier and left her one spot away from having to make a very interesting decision.
It turns out that women’s hammer and shot qualifying are scheduled for the same day at Worlds. If Maggie made the team in the hammer and was placed in Qualification Group B, she’d have had only a short break before reporting for the shot. That might be manageable at an NCAA meet, but probably not when going against the world’s best.
Maggie didn’t say which she’d have chosen, but says she believes her “top end” in the hammer is “way higher” than in the shot.
“I only threw it for four years and got it to go 75 meters,” she says. “I have so much untapped potential. But shot is where you make your money. It’s indoor and outdoor, and more meets host it. I would love to be throwing the hammer way more. I guess the future depends on how the world is going and how I’m going.”