Brotherhood of throwers unite
It was no world record in the shot put by any means — the throw was measured at all of 21 feet — yet 9-year-old Cody Lieberman stirred up some emotions after he set his own personal record during the National Throws and Jumps Summit on Sunday.
“His goal was to hit 20 feet,” Mike Louisiana said. “When he heard that mark, he was so excited; he ran over and jumped in his dad’s lap. I got goose bumps just watching it, but that’s what this is all about … the thrill of victory.”
In this case, the victory of a personal record for young Lieberman, who saw all six of his throws surpass 18 feet during competition held at Carson High School.
The three-day throws and jumps summit, presented by Pacific Sports West, Inc., and the Silver State Games, brought athletes and coaches from California and Nevada together to work on field events — high jump, long jump, triple jump, discus, shot put, javelin and hammer.
“We had around 30 people for the camp,” said Louisiana, a Carson City resident and 1971 NCAA discus champion for Brigham Young University. “It’s been fun. We had a mixture of people, from Cody, who’s 9, to the oldest, who’s 77. For our first year, it went well, and hopefully we can continue to grow.”
There’s a special bond throwers share, one that enabled coaching rivals and good friends Jim Miller and Matt Eckman to share a laugh.
“A brotherhood of throwers, that’s what we are,” said Miller, who coaches at Granite Bay High School in the Sacramento area. “You usually have to go out of your way to find the throwers at a track and field meet. We’re kind of left out on our own to go do our own thing.”
Eckman, who coaches at Rocklin High School, chimed in with a laugh at that point.
“Nobody else will have us,” Eckman said.
Could it be a matter of image?
“There’s the perception Americans have that we’re big and ugly,” Miller said, smiling. “When they think of a shot putter, they think of Helga The Huge from East Germany, who’s 6-6 and 320 pounds. What they don’t see is Suzy Powell, who’s 5-11, 170 pounds, if that, and could easily go into a modeling agency and make money.”
This has been a big year for American throwers. For example, Suzy Powell from Modesto, Calif., broke the U.S. women’s discus record in April with a throw of 227-10 — also a world best, and the best mark in the world since 1999. In June, Kevin Toth, Adam Nelson and John Godina all surpassed 70 feet in the shot put at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. — the first three Americans had ever done so in a single competition. The three duplicated the feat at the USA Championships, won with a mark of 72-11 by Nelson, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist.
“Those shot putters are going crazy. That’s the event to watch right now,” Miller said. “A bunch of us went down to Stanford to watch and we had a great time.”
It’s all part of being in the brotherhood of throwers.
For example, Miller said his Granite Bay High athletes routinely work out with Eckman’s Rocklin throwers since the schools are located no more than 10 minutes drive away from each other. The concept of rivals working together has paid off because they routinely dominate in their Sierra Foothill League.
“Matt and I have a friendly rivalry going,” Miller said. “We look at ourselves as a coaching staff of one. It’s not, your kids or my kids, it’s our kids. There’s different types of coaching. If I can’t help a kid, I’ll send them over to talk to Matt or to John Donch (Christian Brothers High coach). I think we’re big enough to realize none of us is anything super special, we just want to do whatever works best for the kids.”
The opportunity to see such sights as young Cody Lieberman jumping into his father’s lap is what brought these coaches to Carson City this past weekend.
“I’ve always loved coaching and watching kids develop,” Miller said. “I love to see a kid who may be throwing the shot 20 feet to start out and then see him throw 40 feet at the end of the season. I get more out of that than watching a big throw.”
Notes … Among the highlights from Sunday’s competition was Luke Woydziak, who posted a mark of 206-feet, 1-inch in the hammer throw. Woydziak finished 13th in the hammer at the USA nationals last month. Bob Linkl, a Whittell High School graduate who is now at Sacramento State, also threw 186-10 and Janine Bodo, a Galena grad now at the University of Nevada, threw 151-2. Shana Wilkins, who formerly threw for Idaho, led the discus field with a mark of 151-11. Nevada’s Jamie Martino threw 127-0, Jackie Nasca (throws coach at American River College in Sacramento) threw 121-6 and Carson High’s Shaylyn Tom threw 111-8. The oldest entry, 71-year-old Barbara Moore, threw the discus 40-8.
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal