By Jim McElhatton (Photo/Jim McElhatton)
To the uninitiated, shot put looks simple: throw a big, heavy ball as far as you can. But ask T.C. Williams sophomore Alexus Foreman and her teammates to explain the event, and you’re likely in for a physics lecture.
They talk about torque, momentum, angles, mass, speed and — most of all — power. Then there’s the psychology: mental preparation, relaxation techniques and tuning out negative thoughts.
“There’s a lot more to it, and it’s actually a science,” said Rodney Johnson, a former state champion who coaches throwing events at T.C.
Johnson’s explanation came as he watched, cheered and studied his athletes at the Montgomery Invitational in Prince George’s County on Saturday. One of the top indoor track and field meets each year, the invitational draws more than 100 schools from across the mid-Atlantic region.
Overall, the Titans had several standout performances. Perhaps the most impressive showing of the invitational came when Noah Lyles set a new meet record and won the 300-meter run with a time of 34.52 seconds. He also finished second in the 55-meter dash, falling behind by just one-hundredths of a second.
Reginald Thorne finished sixth in the shot put, while distance runner standout Anteneh Girma came in eighth out of a field of 50 in the 1,600 meter. Meanwhile, Josephus Lyles finished fifth in the 500-meter dash.
On the girls’ team, Sydney Schaedel not only won the pole vault, but also finished third in the 800-meter run. Alison Lindsay, of backyard rival St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, finished fourth in that race. Schaedel said she was excited to take the win, if a bit surprised.
While the daylong event featured hundreds of competitors and many more watching from the stands, the loudest cheers came during popular spectator events, such as the mile and the sprints.
But shot putters say their event — often taking place outside of the spotlight — is hard to match for its sheer explosiveness.
“You have a lift and a pause, and you’re pushing across the circle, and then all of the energy you stored up and built up is finally ready to be pushed through,” explained Ashley Martin, a senior who threw for more than 32 feet and a new personal record Saturday. “The trick is to not lose your momentum as you’re going through all that.”
With so many tiny, imperceptible moves taking place just a few seconds apart, competitors have to resist the tendency to think too much.
“I know where my mind needs to be; I need to relax,” Martin said. “Everything in track and field is mental. That’s what life is. I’ve learned a lot.”
Foreman looked a bit out of place in the finals. Most of the other girls were bigger, seemingly a lot stronger. But what Foreman lacks in strength and size, she more than makes up for in speed, according to Johnson.
She became involved in track and field at age 10 through the city’s recreation program. But she didn’t try the shot put until years later, when someone noticed how far she could hurl a softball.
Last year, still relatively new to the sport, Foreman was crowned Patriot District champion in the event. And she finished second among 65 competitors at another big indoor invitational last month. Her best throw this season was a little more than 39 feet.
Foreman didn’t glance up at the other competitors or take much notice of their throws Saturday. She sat quietly on a bench, a picture of calm.
“I try not to think,” she said later. “I use my legs. You have to have your speed. You have to have your power. You have to use all of your body.”
In the final round, which included less than a dozen competitors, Claudia Ababio, a senior at Clarksburg, heaved a tremendous throw of a little more than 41 feet.
On one of her final attempts, Foreman unleashed a big throw that might’ve come close, but she tumbled out of the throwing circle, meaning the result didn’t count. By the end of the meet, Foreman’s best toss came in at just fewer than 38 feet, which was good for fourth place among more than 50 competitors.
Even if it wasn’t her best day, it was still better than most — and Foreman’s performance put competitors on notice. She can throw with the best.