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.