Sept. 20, 2005
As we reached the crest of a hill on the way from Bern to Lausanne, Roland -- who was driving the car -- turned to me to make a comment.
"See there," he said as he pointed to a break in the clouds ahead of us, "The weather is better in the west."
What had been wonderful warm weather this week suddenly changed for the worse as strong winds and rain entered Bern overnight. We were hoping for better weather in Lausanne for the competition.
However, Roland was wrong. The rain had subsided in the west, but the winds had gained speed. When we are arrived in Lausanne, freshly fallen brown leaves blew quickly across the infield. After I had completed my warm up I had not yet begun to sweat as I normally do. The doors to the hammer cage, anchored open by heavy sand bags, were unexpectedly closed three times during warm-ups under the force of 20-mile-per-hour gusts of winds.
For several reasons I did not have many expectations for this meet. For one, I have not had any major competition since NCAA regionals in May. I also am already in the middle of my training for next season. I have been be training well, but it is difficult to gauge progress without competitions. Lastly, Fritz only needed me to score a little more than 800 points, a score that required me to throw only 57 or 58 meters (my best is over 63 meters).
But I did have one goal for the competition: not to have too many fouls. Fouls have plagued me over the past year. In May, my season was abruptly cut short as all three of my attempts at NCAA regionals went crashing into the cage. I also fouled out at thios meet last year. Back then, it was ok -- I had been studying abroad at the time and had not traveled too far to compete, and my points would not have been enough for the team to overtake the winner.
This year, however such a result would be unacceptable. The club needed me to produce points and I did not want to come all this way for nothing.
I entered the ring for my first attempt and turned around to face the landing area. 'Just throw the ball between the two lines,' I said to myself, in reference to the white lines that extended from the ring to mark the valid sector.
I then turned around, took a deep breath and positioned my feet to start the throw. Grabbing the hammer with both hands and holding it behind me at to my right, I began to swing it around my head and then entered my first turn. All was still going well. I continued for three more turns and then released. I immediately knew that my feet had stayed inside of the seven-foot ring. I looked up and saw that the hammer was in the air and would also land within the sector. That was all I needed to know. I would find out the distance later, but I breathed much easier as if a great weight was lifted off of my chest.
My next throw was about the same distance, but my final two attempts were not as far. On those attempts I tried to hard and tightened up (relaxing is the key to a successful hammer throw). They measured each athlete's best attempt after everyone had finished all four throws. My best, my first throw, measured 59.24 meters. That is not a great distance, but considering the weather conditions, I was quite pleased. My mark was also the best at the meet and earned the team 850 points. Roland placed second with 58.02 meters (533 points).
The final team scores had the club winning the competition to earn fifth place overall in Switzerland. However, our point total was nearly as high as last year's when the team placed second overall. This year, had we made the final, our point total would have again been easily good enough for another second-place finish. The women had even greater success by winning the Swiss Club Championships for the first time in the club's history.
After a long night , the men's team met again on Sunday afternoon for a casual game of soccer. The game is a yearly tradition that serves as a friendly end to the season. Well, it actually just starts off friendly and then becomes fiercely competitive as the match nears an end. This year my team won after overtime and a shoot-out. While the game did not display much in the way of soccer skills, it was quite fun and provided an entertaining and exciting conclusion to an enjoyable trip.
Thanks to everyone who has enjoyed following along with my trip. I hope to see you all at Husky Stadium this spring. Go Dawgs!