Monday, July 31, 2017

USATF National Championships

A return to Sacramento for this year's USATF National Championships meant that I was prepared mentally for lots of heat and a competition that takes place on the warm-up track outside the stadium. I competed for the first time at Sac State at Golden West about 15 years ago. Way back then (and into the first part of college), the infield was grass and we got to throw there. Now, we're relegated to the far corner of the practice track. My experience throwing out there in 2014 told me that I wanted to take special advantage of this year's championships and announce the men's javelin to make it a bit more exciting! That experience turned into a bit more, and was awesome.

Photo by Paul Merca (2014)

2014's USATF National Championships
 saw me return to the top of the podium for the first time after my ACL surgery, and was an interesting and busy season for me, as we were renovating our house and also planning our wedding for the September immediately following that comeback year. This year, my focus coming in was to win my seventh national title, and throw really far.

That's truly all I was thinking about, and as a result, I had no true technical focus. I really tried to relax on the runway and let my feet do the work, but the technical cues and patient positions I've remembered in the past few weeks clue me in to why the javelin didn't go further than 62.80m one month ago at this meet. I succeeded in winning my seventh national championship and earning a spot on this upcoming World team, but I was in shape physically to make the javelin go much further on that 109-degree day. My legs worked okay, but the timing of my upper body was way ahead of those legs, and I can see that clearly now. I still managed to have two other throws over 61m and another two over 59m. Ari was second with 58m, and set herself up to throw further later and make the World Championship team, too!!

The javelin and hammer competitions, as previously stated, take place outside the stadium at Sac State. This presents a neat opportunity for fans of those specific events to get close to the action, but that's not enough! Three years ago, I was extremely frustrated with the energy level of the announcing that happened during our competition, so this year I wanted to do something about it. I couldn't really affect change during my own meet, and the men's hammer happened earlier that same day, but the men's javelin was scheduled for Saturday and the women's hammer was contested Sunday morning. I called the powers that be at USATF and asked if I could announce the men's javelin, not on any live streamed internet channel to conflict with the broadcast rights of NBC, but just for the one-set-of-bleachers-full of the athletes' friends and family out at the warm-up track. I was pumped when they said yes.

Armed with an index card of information gathered on each of the 18 men's javelin throwers, I had a blast providing background information, a few technical opinions, hype, and a positive spin on each athletes' performance on Saturday. Riley and Cyrus both threw season's best, and Michael Shuey threw lifetime PRs to break into the top 3 two weeks after finishing his collegiate career at Penn State. All of the other athletes seemed to enjoy it, and the crowd was more engaged by far than for our event two days prior! So fun. Amanda Bingson showed up to watch the event, and told me point blank that I had to announce the hammer the next day as well. I had thought about it briefly, but her request meant a lot to me, and I did my research that night and the next morning to do those awesome athletes justice as well. American women's hammer has been steadily catching fire for the past few years, and their incredible competition was an honor to be a small part of. I got great feedback from both crowds and had an absolute blast shedding some light and entertainment on my fellow American throwers for the fans that chose to sit in 100+ degrees to cheer them on!

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