Season Preview: Throws
Jan. 7, 2013
Washington opens up the 2013 track season this Saturday, hosting the UW Indoor Preview at the Dempsey beginning at 8 a.m. The indoor season takes the Dawgs through early March, when they head outdoors and take the new outdoor track for a spin. Check in throughout the week to read up on what each event group has on tap in 2013.
SEATTLE - A year ago, assistant coach T.J. Crater had barely begun to unpack when he was asked to prognosticate the season for his new group of throwers. The hectic transition season turned out to be a solid one, but now the East Wenatchee native has started to put his stamp on the Washington throwers with a deep first recruiting class and a first full fall training season.
Crater, who came to UW right before the start of the 2012 season after three years at Penn State, had a senior-laden roster to work with last year, doing his best to mentor while not wanting to tear down and start from scratch with established throwers such as Elisa Bryant and Angus Taylor, who each set PRs in the hammer throw last year in their only seasons with Crater.
Heading into the 2013 campaign, there are areas of great strength for the Dawgs (hint: it's pointy) but most of the throwing events are in the building phase. Aiding that process is the improved comfort level for Coach Crater and the athletes, who now know what to expect from their coach and vice versa.
Despite a shortened recruiting season, Crater welcomes eight new freshmen to the mix this school year, covering all event areas. It's a class he hopes will begin to lay the groundwork for a robust program down the line.
"Last year was a tough challenge, but now the fact that eight of our 14 throwers are freshmen, it's a whole new type of difficulty," says Crater. "Last year with so many seniors we were trying to figure out how to get through the season without making too many changes. Whereas this year we're starting from scratch with more than half the group."
Our freshman group has the talent, the work ethic, and the culture we were looking for. How they react to competing, and maturing, and growing, it's going to be a learning process.
The new group is also largely local, with seven of the eight freshmen hailing from Washington.
"I was very fortunate that there were quite a few unsung, quality throwers that hadn't gotten the national attention here in the state of Washington. They're all very talented and in their own way bring something special to the table," he says.
But with the youth will have to come, as usual, a good deal of patience, and "learning how to do it the right way," Crater says.
"Our freshman group has the talent, the work ethic, and the culture we were looking for. How they react to competing, and maturing, and growing, it's going to be a learning process. We want to look long-term. Maybe one or two of the freshmen can make an impact at Pac-12s and the others can make an impact at the dual meet," says Crater. "The talent's there; we're going to take our lumps here and there, but we're going to persevere and keep fighting through it and by the time we're done with the year we'll look back and be proud of it and hopefully embark on some really cool careers."
The men start from a huge position of strength: the javelin. The past few years have been something of a renaissance for the Husky javelin throwers. The group went 2-3-4 at the Pac-10 Championships in Tucson in 2011, then put four in the top-eight at Pac-12s in Eugene last year, easily the best single event for UW at the conference meet.
All four of the Pac-12 scorers, and West Prelim qualifiers, return for the Huskies this year, and yet another talented freshman will only add to the depth. All-Americans Joe Zimmerman and Jimmy Brookman will look for big senior seasons, while Quinn Hale and Curtis Clauson hope to reach All-American levels themselves, and freshman Carson Fuller of Spokane has impressed Coach Crater thus far.
"With the javelin group, the fall is very beneficial because that's when I like to work on the javelin and really break down the event and make changes," he says. "We had the opportunity to really clean up a lot of their throwing and make changes to the fitness levels. Everyone is in great shape and making quality changes. They're fired up."
In a 2012 season of just four meets, Jimmy Brookman earned All-America Second Team honors, placing 15th in his first NCAA finals appearance.
Perhaps the best storyline last year was the short but sweet season of Brookman, who was expected to redshirt the whole year after having Tommy John surgery on his elbow. Instead, Brookman worked his way back ahead of schedule and wound up tossing away the redshirt season and making his debut at the UW-WSU dual meet, just one meet before Pac-12s. Brookman threw 216-feet on his first attempt in a year, then went on to place fifth at Pac-12s. That just set the stage for NCAA West Prelims, where he went and bombed a big PR of 233-11 to advance to his first NCAA final site. At Nationals, in just his fourth competition of the year, he threw 225-9 to finish 15th overall and earn second team All-America honors.
After that scintillating end to his spring season, Crater says that Brookman is "still very confident" and that the sky is the limit for the Redmond native in his senior year.
Zimmerman, who ranks third on the Husky all-time top-10 list, had one bad meet at the wrong time last year which left a bad taste from what was otherwise yet another excellent season. In his junior year, Zimmerman led the four Dawgs at Pac-12s with a runner-up effort, having moved up from fifth as a freshman and third as a sophomore. He won the dual meet and threw at least 222-feet every time out with one exception, the West Prelims where he struggled on three attempts and missed the NCAA finals for the first time.
Returning to that elite stage is certainly the goal for Zimmerman in his final season, says Crater. "Joe has done a lot to make sure we're on the same page this year, physically and technically," Crater says. "He put a lot of pressure on himself and this year he's going to go out and have a little more fun. If everything goes as planned he's going to be nationally recognized in those top-contender conversations."
Zimmerman will also be captain of the men's group as a whole this season, and he's set the example with his offseason workouts. "His fitness levels are awesome. Technically we've worked on the flight of his javelin and release which is better than what I saw from him last year. He's in midseason form. He did a really good job this summer preparing to take off this year."
Hale and Clauson made quick impressions in their first seasons. Hale was fourth and Clauson was seventh at Pac-12s, and both earned spots at West Prelims.
"I've seen some things from Curtis and Quinn that I'm really encouraged by," said Crater. "They've already seen what it takes to score on the Pac-12 level so they want to take that next step and get to the finals same as Joe and Jimmy."
Fuller was a multi-sport standout at Ferris in Spokane, and broke the 200-foot mark as a senior in the javelin. "Carson is showing a lot of promise and Joe and Jimmy are giving a lot of oohs and aahs during practice so it's going to be exciting this year for him," Crater says.
After the javelin group, however, the only returner on the men's side is known more for tossing around offensive linemen than discs or shots. But UW will look to sophomore Danny Shelton to contribute again in the shot put. Shelton threw around his spring football schedule last year, and just missed scoring at his first Pac-12 meet.
"Danny says he's fired up to throw," says Crater. "He's somebody from seeing his numbers and seeing him move, he's put up some freakish numbers in the weight room. I'm not sure how that will translate over to this sport, but when we see him we're hoping for some improvement out of him. If we can keep him fresh from spring ball he can be successful."
Shelton will have some company in the shot ring this season, as local product Jack Scheideman out of Roosevelt High enters the mix. "Jack is a big steal for us," Crater says. Scheideman played baseball throughout most of high school, then taught himself to shot put mid-way through his junior year, with help over the internet from a throws coach uncle in Michigan.
"This summer Jack lived in the weight room and put on upwards of 20 pounds and continued to work on his athleticism. If he keeps on track he could sneak into the Pac-12 final," says Crater, while admitting the Pac-12 should be much deeper this year than last. "He and I both set a goal of 55-feet as a freshman. If you start like that as a freshman you're on track to throw 60 feet consistently the last few years."
Stepping in to help out in the hammer is freshman Kyle White of Centralia, Wash., another well-rounded athlete who also happened to be valedictorian of his graduating class and student body president. Kyle's probably the most hardworking, intense guy I've worked with. He sprints to get his implements. The guy is a motor," says Crater. "He is a smaller, athletic guy and we're starting to see improvement on the technical side with the hammer. When he grows into his body a little more and uses the heavier implements he could be a contributor to us at the dual and maybe Pac-12s down the road."
Youth will be served as well on the women's side, where four of the seven athletes are freshmen. The two seniors, Jordin Seekins and Ally Mueller, will provide excellent leadership and work ethic for the talented incoming group.
Seekins has qualified for West Prelims in the javelin each of the past two years, and will captain the group. Mueller is one of the best students on the Husky track squad, having earned Pac-12 All-Academic First Team honors the past two years.
"Jordin's been a great leader this year. She's seen the need for upperclassmen to be more vocal with our freshmen and she's embraced that and been great," Crater says. "Showing the freshmen the ropes of how to operate being a student-athlete and what my expectations are, and kind of relating to them what they hear and what they need to do.
Seekins also "absolutely killed her workouts this summer. She got fit and leaned down. She wants it and has done a good job of preparing technically. I think where she can make her biggest impact is scoring at the Pac-12 meet. I think it's realistic. The depth in the conference is still going to be cutthroat. But I think she can step up and score some points for us."
Mueller has continued to find the balance between athletics and academics. "She's basically going to any dental school in the country she wants," says Crater. "But knowing I want to work with her has really helped. Her strength levels have gotten better and we see it out there. Hopefully she has a chance to score at Pac-12s herself because I'd love for her to have a successful senior year."
I think where (Seekins) can make her biggest impact is scoring at the Pac-12 meet. I think it's realistic. The depth in the conference is still going to be cutthroat. But I think she can step up and score some points for us.
The only other returner is sophomore Jesse Havens, who took up the hammer and weight throws last season, and showed a great work ethic and attitude, says Crater. "Jesse's done a good job of being the leader, just with all the little details, which is great as a coach. She's been a great resource for the freshmen. She will throw the hammer and scoring in the dual at the hammer is a goal for her."
The four freshmen are an exciting group for Crater that he hopes can contribute right away. Hannah Sherrill is the lone out-of-state thrower (from Kailua, Hawaii) and put up top-10 national numbers in the discus last year. Bev Coleman and Alyx Toeaina have both excelled in the shot put at several Washington state meets, and look to help turn around that event which has been lacking for the Dawgs for a number of years. Carolyn Gravelle is another local product out of Snohomish and Crater thinks she could be a big surprise in the hammer.
Sherrill won the Hawaii state title in the discus last year and had a toss of 159-9 that ranked eighth nationally. But Crater says that Sherrill is still very raw and rode her pure ability in high school, so perfecting the technique will be key.
"She's showing a lot of promise but we've been working on a lot of things technically with the hammer and the discus. We've made a lot of changes that seem drastic to her," says Crater, though he still has high hopes for year one saying, "we hope she can win the dual and score some points at Pac-12s and hopefully make the first round of the NCAAs as a freshman.
"The talent is there but it's how well she grasps these ideas and takes them that will determine her success this year."
Crater sees similarities between Coleman, from Spanaway, and Toeaina, from Covington, in the way they operate, as "they would both do anything for anybody and are tenacious with their work ethics. They have great attitudes and made a lot of technical changes."
Both explosive athletes, Crater sees the spin technique in the shot put taking them past the 50-foot mark, but that's the long-term plan. "We're going to see excitement but we will take a lot of lumps with our youth," he admits. Toeaina should throw shot and discus, while Coleman will be shot with some hammer as well.
Gravelle was one of the better hammer throwers in Washington last year. Originally coming to UW solely for academics, she has impressed Coach Crater with hard work and has been receptive to all the changes to her technique. "She could move up the UW record books in the weight and the hammer very fast," says Crater. "I think she could be the surprise of the group and someone we could be smiling about very soon."