RENO - When Alex McAlman was introduced to the hammer throw last year at the University of Nevada, she was decidedly lukewarm to the idea.
The former Carson High standout was a discus and shot-put person, and the idea of taking on something brand new wasn't appealing.
"I didn't even know anything about it," said McAlman, a sophomore. "Last year it was spin fast and hope I didn't fall down. I hated it at first."
That's because she did fall down a few times, or other times would throw the hammer into the side of the cage. She ended up throwing 151 feet 8 inches by the end of her freshman season.
Then came a new year and a new throws coach, T.J. Crater, who was a college teammate of Shana Wilkins, who coached McAlman at Carson. He could see the potential McAlman had.
"Shana told me she was a monster in the making," Crater said. "From what I saw last year (on film) she was primarily a discus thrower with a little bit of shot put.
"Alex tended to end up on her rear end (throwing the hammer). When she threw, she was a blur. Alex is very strong; naturally strong. She's very fast and explosive. She uses that well in the hammer."
At the tail end of the indoor season, things started to click for McAlman. The result was a regional qualifying mark of 182-5 inches at the first outdoor meet of the season at the Hornet Invite at Sacramento State. She had improved by 30 feet in a year.
"I think I had six throws and four were over the regional qualifying mark," McAlman said. "I want to be consistent. I don't want to be known as the girl that throws 50 feet and then throws 25 feet the next time. I don't want people thinking it's a fluke.
"If you had told me last year I would have a 30-foot PR (by now), I wouldn't have believed you."
McAlman's success can be attributed to many things - strength, coaching and composure. She admits that she's "froze up" in competition in the past.
"My teammates give me a hard time because I don't get super excited," McAlman said. "I've done things in practice (in all three throws). It was a matter of doing it when it counted; a matter of being more consistent."
McAlman admits that the hammer is probably her best event now, and Crater said she is just scratching the surface.
"She's just a baby," Crater said. "She has a lot left in the tank. Her footwork, balance and body awareness (are better). Her technique is consistently better this year.
"The goal this season was to get a regional qualifying mark. She went out and did that, and that's very solid at the Division I level. She's been within a foot of that each meet. The rest of the season we'll be trying to hit the 200-foot mark."
McAlman said she threw against several performers the last couple of weeks that have 200-foot throws on their respective resumes. McAlman is impressed, but not awed by that. If nothing else, better throwers will bring out her competitive side.
Crater hopes that will help McAlman get to regional qualifying in the discus and shot put, too. She has already PR'd in those events this season.
McAlman threw 149-9 in the discus at the Stanford Invitational, a 6-foot improvement, and threw the shot 44-11 at the Cal-Nevada meet.
Crater has changed McAlman's technique in the shot put, and she's improved in that event by more than two feet.
"I was always a glider in high school and my first year here," McAlman said. "I switched to the spin in January, and I'm still getting used to it."
"She is still working through it," Crater said. "We went to Stanford last week and did a pre-meet, and she was inches short of the 50-foot line. She's right there."
The discus was McAlman's strength in high school, but she admits to being a bit inconsistent since coming to Nevada.
"I'll throw 145 feet one time and 115 the next," she said. "Last year I was frustrated because I was so up and down."
A lot of that is technique, and McAlman knows that all too well.
"The tiniest problem in the back of the ring will lead to problems in the front of the ring," said the Nevada sophomore.
McAlman knows that all the speed and strength in the world won't help if your feet and the rest of your body aren't working in sync.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE MCALMAN FILE
Year in school: Sophomore
High School: Carson
Events: Shot put, discus and hammer