When people are asked to picture track and field athletes, they probably picture lithe, athletic people constantly running, jumping and sweating their very toned butts off. Most likely, they don’t imagine the often massive, intimidating men and women throwing heavy metal balls and frisbees as far as their body wills it.
Throwing, an often overlooked and misunderstood event, is far more than what meets the eye.
In high school throwing, there are two events: shot put and discus. Collegiate athletes also throw javelin and hammer. Senior Sintia Marquez, a thrower since freshman year, in recognizing the difference between the two levels said, “We don’t throw as far [as collegiate athletes].”
A women’s shot put is an 8-pound metal ball approximately the same size as a large orange. Women’s discus is a 2.2-pound metal disc and is about half a foot in diameter. Although an 8-pound ball may not seem too heavy, Marquez said, “It is a lot of strength. You have to give a lot of leg power. It does require some upper body strength, but not as much as lower body strength.”
There are two different rings on the floor in which the thrower enters from the back half and throws between two sector lines which function as out of bounds lines. The shot put ring is 7-feet in diameter and has a toe board in the front of the ring. The discus ring is slightly larger at around 8-feet, and Marquez said, “It is encircled by a net so you are not able to hit anyone.”
In addition to the sector, there are many other regulations that determine if a throw is valid or must be scratched. Stepping or falling out of the ring, throwing with two hands or below the shoulder, not pausing after entering the ring before throwing, touching the top of the toe board and not exiting the ring from the back half are all just a few of the fouls. If one fails to comply with these rules, “it is considered a scratch and your throw doesn’t count,” said Marquez.
Throwing shot put and discus requires much more technique than it seems. One cannot just step into the ring throw it like a baseball or frisbee one day and expect to be an Olympic athlete the next. Most throwers use a specific variety of spinning, gliding and shuffling in their throws and know that even the slightest tweak of the angle of their wrist or spine can be the difference between a personal record and the worst throw of their life.
Although throwers may not run laps on laps around the track, throwing still does require a lot of hard work and practice. Marquez said, “A lot of people misconceive it as being easy. You’re always going to want to push a little bit farther.” Throwers regularly go to the weight room and are constantly improving their technique.
Many also overlook the dangers involved in throwing. Marquez said, “I have almost gotten hit multiple times by a disc–I have almost gotten decapitated.” Just last year, junior Gabriela Nguyen was hit by a discus and still has a small dent in her shin.
Despite the difficulties, throwers keep on throwing. Marquez says, “It’s a stress reliever. When you are so mad or so stressed, you just throw as hard as you can. Throwing a heavy pound metal ball as hard as you can is great.”