The Monday Morning Meathead for the week of March 25

Shelby Frank and Coach Peter Miller showing off her new PB. Photo courtesy of Coach Miller.

Gophers got game

Fresh off a second-place finish in the weight at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Minnesota’s Shelby Frank opened her outdoor campaign with strong showings in the hammer and disc at the Clyde Hart Classic in Waco, Texas.

Gopher throws coach Peter Miller says the hammer is Shelby’s “least favorite” event in spite of the potential she displayed while producing a PB of 65.83m during a redshirt 2023 season. This winter, Frank used a wind and four turns in the weight to try to get more carryover into the hammer, and a 62.78m toss at the Clyde indicates she might be on the right track.

But though she hopes to contend for big Big Ten points in the ball and chain, the discus is, in Coach Miller’s words, “Shelby’s baby.”  And the little bundle of joy seems to be developing quite well! Shelby switched from a fixed feet to full-reverse thrower in 2023 and pushed her PB to 59.07m in the process. She also notched her second consecutive fifth-place finish at the USATF Championships and earned a silver medal at the U23 NACACs in Costa Rica, a pleasant surprise as it was the first time Shelby had visited a foreign country other than Canada (which doesn’t even seem like a foreign country except that everyone is polite there and a “loonie” is a dollar and not a parent raising their hand at a school board meeting).

After a solid off-season of training, Shelby launched a 59.10m bomb at an indoor discus comp on campus in February, then surpassed it last weekend in Waco as part of a very solid series: 56.16m, Foul, 59.69m, 58.17m, 58.98m, 58.13m.

Her goals for 2024? According to Coach Miller, Shelby would like to win her first Big Ten discus title and improve upon her best NCAA finish, which was 6th in 2022. As this is an Olympic year, she’d also like to improve on those fifth-place USATF finishes. Is a spot on the podium and the plane to Paris a possibility? “Shelby,” says Miller, “is physically stronger and faster than she was a year ago. As long as she shows up with a good attitude, she will be tough to beat.”

The same might be said of Gopher freshman Angleos Mantzouranis, whom Coach Miller describes as “an immensely powerful young man” who “looks like an NFL fullback in his lower body.”

Miller says that Mantzouranis’s strength sometimes interferes with his ability to make technical adjustments. “Luckily,” he explained, “I teach the hammer in a similar way to Angelos’s coach back in Greece, Alex Papadimitriou, so that helps.”

Angelos Mantzouranis and Coach Miller at the Clyde. Photo courtesy of Coach Miller.

It might be best that Miller and Papadimitriou share mentorship of Angelos, as his recent ups and downs might be too much for a single nervous system to withstand. Last summer, for example, he dropped a 77.16m one-and-done bomb with the 6-kilo implement during qualification at the European U20 Championships, then No-Marked in the final after pulling an 80-meter effort wide left, banging one off the cage on the right, and barely toe-fouling a 78-meter toss which would have put him on the podium.. 

In his collegiate debut on March 15th at the Hurricane Invitational, Angelos opened at 70.27m but followed up with five consecutive fouls. He fouled again in rounds one and two at the Clyde, which had Miller wondering if he might be “the worst hammer coach in the NCAA.”

But one thing Angelos does not do is back off when the chips are down, and he ended up putting together a nice series on Friday that included PB’s of 73.50m and 73.85m. Miller says they, “had a good conversation after the meet about the problem of him thinking one thing during a competition and me cueing him on another. We know we have to be on the same page going forward.”

Also sharing space on that page is 2023 NCAA hammer runner-up Kostas Zaltos, who like Angelos, hails from Greece. 

The Peloponnesian pipeline first opened for Miller shortly after he took over the men’s program at Minnesota. In the spring of 2019, he was going through some Facebook messages when he noticed one from Kostas saying he’d be throwing at the upcoming European U20 Championships in Sweden.

It just so happened that Miller was planning to attend that comp, and while there he got to meet Kostas and see him throw. “Personality-wise,” Miller recalls, “we connected right away. He fouled out of the competition, but that was probably for the best because it might have kept other schools from noticing him.”

Kostas arrived on campus in January of 2020 and showed off his pop by launching the weight 20.92m before the season was shut down by Covid. As a foreign student, Kostas was required to return to Greece, and while he was gone, the University of Minnesota terminated the men’s track program. 

He was set to transfer when the Board of Regents agreed to restore outdoor track only. “Kostas was actually happy about that,” says Miller. “He hated throwing the weight.”

With a European and Olympic Championships this summer, Kostas is taking a redshirt year to focus on making the Greek national squad. The PB 76.33m he hit at the 2023 NCAAs has him just under the 76.50m qualifying mark for Europeans, and within shouting distance of the 78.20m Olympic standard as well.

He is currently training with Miller in Minneapolis, and will compete two or three times in the US before heading home to Greece for the summer. Miller will continue to write Kostas’s training programs and to coach him as best he can over Zoom. Next year, Kostas will be back competing for U of M where he will join Shelby, Angelos, and others on what promises to be a powerful Gophers throws squad. 

Book update

Make that “books.”

Training for Gold: The Plan that made Daniel Ståhl Olympic Champion is available on Amazon in paperback and as an eBook.

Cover photo courtesy of Arwid Koskinen

Training for Gold details the 2020-2021 training plan used by Daniel and his coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson. Anyone interested in the art of training, of balancing lifting with technique work, balancing hard work with rest, avoiding injury, and peaking when it counts, will find valuable information here from one of the great throwing coaches of all time.

In addition, we are a week or two away from releasing our second book about Vésteinn and Daniel…

Gold: The Olympic Journey of Daniel Ståhl and Vésteinn Hafsteinsson is an inside look at their ten-year partnership which resulted in World Championship and Olympic gold.

As I said, this baby will be out soon. Stay tuned!

Throwdown at Throw Town

In a preview of big throws to come at the upcoming 2024 Oklahoma Throws Series World Invitational (April 12-14), the discs were flying this past weekend at Throw Town Ramona.

On Saturday, the 23rd, UCLA commit Julia Tunks bashed a PB 59.84m to extend her Canadian U20 and U23 records.

In the men’s comp, 2022 US champion Andrew Evans broke 67 meters for the first time to finish ahead of 2022 World Championships finalist Alex Rose.

Alex Rose opened his 2024 season at Throw Town. Photo courtesy of Caleb Seal.

The following day, Tunks went 58.92m, while 2023 Pan Am U20 bronze medalist and future Kansas Jayhawk Maddie Fey hit 53.52m. Fey’s future teammate at Kansas, Kat Meacham, went 49.89m, while outstanding high school junior Taylor Wiseman notched a 50.23m PB and future Clemson Tiger, Christina Barnett pushed her all time best to 47.35m.

Photo Courtesy of Caleb Seal.

Meanwhile, Evans once again took advantage of the propitious Oklahoma winds in extending his PB to 67.50m. He was again followed by Rose, who notched an early season’s best of 66.57m.

The lineup for the World Invitational promises to be veeeery interesting. More on that soon!

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