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Putting field events into perspective


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How can I explain the first time I tried to throw a shot put in gym class?

I’m sure we’ve heard the term, “One more win than a dead man.” Well this would have been, “One more foot than a dead man.”

It was more of a drop than a throw.

I never thought tossing a 12-pound grapefruit would be so tough.

In case you’ve never tried to throw a shot put, let me try to explain what it is like.

When I was a senior in high school, my football coach gave me a pass to get away from class for a couple of hours. He threw me the keys to his truck and told me to go pick up a load of hay for his horses.

I met him at his barn a bit later and backed the truck up to the door. He had a hayloft, and he climbed the ladder to the loft and told me to start throwing the hay bales to him.

An average hay bale runs about 30 pounds, but these were about 50. I stood in the bed of the truck and lifted the first hay bale up above my head and tried to push it upward. It went up about a foot, then crashed down upon my head.

It was like trying to throw a shot put, straight up in the air. It wasn’t going to work.

Obviously, in the hay bale story, our positions were wrong. A former college offensive lineman, he got into the truck, and I went into the loft to do the catching. He flipped them up to me like they were bags of feathers.

The first lesson was a no-brainer. Big, strong guys can throw hay bales farther than little, weak guys. Then again, there was a technique to it.

My coach knew to get that momentum going from the moment he grabbed the bale. He turned his body like a guy swinging a golf club and let go. Smooth.

It’s the same with throwing a shot put. It’s more than pure muscle. It’s movement, quickness and explosion.

Sure, you don’t see skinny, little guys throwing the shot put in the Olympics. Size is

a factor.

But you often see smallish guys scoring points for their high school teams in the shot put and discus. It just takes a whole lot of work on technique, work and dedication.

I wasn’t willing to do it, and that’s why I wanted nothing to do with track. But every time I attend a track meet, I appreciate the skill it takes to compete in certain events.

It’s like the time our gym class turned to another track event. I walked up to the barrier, wondering how I could possibly high jump over this thing.

Only it wasn’t the high jump. It was a high hurdle, set at 39 inches. It was like telling me to jump over the neighbor’s picket fence at a full sprint. No way.

Considering hurdles were out of the question, we walked over to the high jump area. Yikes.

We all watched as a fellow student jumped over the bar and landed into this netting filled with foam padding and one misplaced rock. He got up, holding his head, which was bleeding. Forget this.

I never had a very good feeling about the high jump.

Then four years ago, I had the good fortune of interviewing Dick Fosbury ... Mr. Fosbury Flop himself (the 1968 Olympic gold medalist who cleared 7 feet, 4¼ inches in that event).

Fosbury was teaching a camp in Pocatello, Idaho. Every kid there, along with Fosbury, who was 6-foot-4, had frog legs that covered three-quarters of their bodies. It was proof that most of us just aren’t built for such an event.

Still, if you attend a high school track event this spring, you are going to see jumpers of all sizes trying to make like Fosbury and doing pretty darned well.

So if you want to have some fun late in the afternoon this summer, check out one of our area track teams and pay attention to the field events. Take my word for it. That stuff’s not easy.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.

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