Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned the inaugural Forza Athletics season to be as successful, exciting, and thriving. What started out as a USATF club to support post-collegiate throwers turned into a club that has started gaining momentum. What follows is a summary of the 2016-17 season. A summary of Forza Athletics athletes and performances.
My initial thoughts about starting the Forza Athletics Track & Field Club were to; 1) provide post-collegiate throwers the support they needed to continue pursuing their throwing dreams, 2) teach high school throwers how to throw the hammer, and 3) have the space to make this all happen. My first step was essentially the easiest one, register the club with USATF and make everything official. I received permission from Nazareth College to be the club’s host facility-allowing high-school and post-collegiate throwers a facility to throw in. I was able to secure practice times either before or after our collegiate practice.
I have been flooded with many different emotions this year. Senses of excitement were followed by times of nervousness, second-guessing, and apprehension. Nervousness about the notion that throwers wouldn’t be interested in joining the club. Second-guesses about how to go about coaching high-school athletes who had never thrown the hammer before, and apprehension about what others might think of me starting a throwing club. Essentially I really wanted to generate throwing momentum in the community, teach kids how to throw the hammer, and have them compete in meets over the summer (by specifically throwing the hammer). Whatever expectations I had last January were met, and far exceeded.
Coach Infurna and Luis Rivera after a meet at OSU in early January, 2017
Savannah Cook, Coach Infurna, and Matt Hand after a meet at Houghton College
In January our team consisted of Luis Rivera and Savannah Cook. Two post-collegiate throwers chasing their dreams. Luis was coming off an extremely successful Division III career at Nazareth College. Winning the 2016 DIII Indoor 35lb. Weight Throw National Championship, Luis finished his career with a 3rd place finish in the Men’s Hammer Throw at the DIII Outdoor National Championships. In total, Luis ended his career as a 4x All-American, National Champion, and ranking 6th all-time in the Weight Throw at the Division III level (20.45m). Savannah had just wrapped up a successful DIII career as well. Throwing for SUNY Brockport, Savannah was a multiple time SUNYAC conference Shot-Put champion, while ranking in the top 25 in the 20lb. Weight Throw and Hammer Throw respectfully.
Our first indoor season was a very productive and successful one! Savannah won meets at RIT and at Houghton College. Luis also won meets at RIT, Utica, and Houghton College, setting the facility and meet record at Houghton and Utica. In early January Luis competed at The Ohio State University. Still working on building rhythm and technique, Luis competed at the famous Findlay Elite meet. Throwing against a star-studded field, Luis broke the then Puerto Rican National Record at Findlay. That throw also qualified him for the 2017 USATF Indoor Track & Field National Championships. Competing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Luis finished 6th with a monstrous throw of 22.01m, re-breaking his own Puerto Rican National Record in the 35# Weight Throw.
Luis Rivera setting the Puerto Rican National Record in the 35# Weight Throw at the USATF Indoor National Championships-22.01m
The Forza Athletics family also included two extremely talented and successful Highland Games competitors. Matt Hand (Professional Highland Games competitor) and Meagan McKee (Professional Highland Games competitor) wore the Forza crest during their respective seasons as well. Not only competing in Highland Games competitions, Meagan competed in several hammer competitions on the West Coast (lucky) while also competing in national level Highland Games competitions, setting numerous personal bests along the way. You can learn more about Meagan’s Highland Games accomplishments here www.nasgaweb.com/dbase/resultsathlete3.asp?athletename=Mckee%2CMeagan&athleteyear=2017&type=nasga&x=20&y=7
Making the transition from Amateur to Professional athlete is no small task. Matt Hand was able to make as smooth and fluid transition to the ranks of Professional Highland Games athlete without struggle. Matt become a guest blogger on the Forza Athletics website, giving everyone a peak into the life of a professional athlete. Matt’s humor and work ethnic was shown on a weekly basis, putting out great content and material for anyone interested in learning more about the Highland Games, competition, and the work-throwing-life balance. You can learn more about Matt’s Highland Games accomplishments here http://www.nasgaweb.com/dbase/resultsathlete3.asp?athletename=Hand%2CMatt&athleteyear=2017&type=nasga&x=29&y=12.
Building upon the momentum from the Indoor Season, our Outdoor Season got off to a fantastic start. Savannah opened up the season with a solid 2nd place finish at the Geneseo Early Open Meet at the end of March. The following weekend Savannah and Luis competed at the Nazareth College ROC City Classic Meet, both coming away with victories. At this meet, Luis joined the 60m club, throwing a personal best throw in his first meet of the season. That meet was followed up with a victory at the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagle Meet, with Savannah having another solid top 3 finish.
Luis continued to build upon his early season success by competing at the Ashland Alumni Open in late April, again setting a personal best in the Hammer throw. Luis finished the Outdoor season with a personal best throw of 63.88m. While Luis’ and Savannah’s seasons were wrapping up, a high school thrower was just beginning her first venture with the hammer.
Above, Meagan McKee throwing the Hammer in sunny California
Savannah opening her season at SUNY Geneseo
What this high school thrower was able to accomplish in her first indoor track & field varsity season was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Webster Thomas High School freshman thrower Monique Hardy made quite an impact during her first varsity indoor track & field season. Never competing in the 20# weight throw before the start of the 2016-17 season, Monique went from 28’ to 48’ in a just a couple of months! Monique won the Section V Class A 20# Weight Throw championship. Wrapping up her first indoor season, Monique finished 3rd at New Balance Indoor Nationals, setting a personal best with her throw of 48’.
At the beginning of May, Monique attended a Forza Athletics hammer clinic, and took very well to throwing the hammer. Practicing a couple of times a week through June and July, Monique set the New York State Freshman Hammer Record at the Junior Olympic qualifying meet held at SUNY Brockport at the beginning of July. Monique won the 15-16 age group that meet with a throw of 46.18m, also the best female hammer throw of the day. A couple of weeks later Monique competed at the USATF Junior Olympic Championships in Kansas. At this meet, Monique finished 2nd in the 15-16 age group, with a new New York State Freshman class record with a throw of 47.67m.
Monique Hardy and Coach Infurna at SUNY Brockport after Monique broke the NYS Freshman Hammer Record
I’ll finish with what I began with. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected any of this to happen. My main intention was to provide coaching to athletes that were interested, as well as a facility for them to train in. All the credit goes to Luis, Savannah, Matt, Meagan, and Monique. Our recipe for success; work-ethic, dedication, grit, and want to are a start. Much like life, nothing is given in the track & field world. All success is earned. Throwers that include the ingredients mentioned above have a better chance to reach their goals. It takes time. Quality time. Quality time that everyone invested this past 2016-17 season. I’m proud to be their coach. Without their interest in competing and wanting to throw, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. Thank you. Thank you for your time, effort, support, dedication, and a willingness to wear the Forza Crest. I am forever indebted to you.
My best ~ Charles
I think I may have joined a special club this past weekend. I attended a local high school meet, and had some great conversations with throwers and adults alike. A couple of the conversations I had have led me to believe that I may have made it into the club. Not just any club, but the “secret” club. I’m not really sure if it is a club at all, however, after 11 years of coaching, I was asked the “secret” question that gives someone entry into the club. This isn’t just any question, but it is the “secret” question. Have you guessed what club or question I’m talking about. I’ll give you a couple of days to think about it, and then get back to you with what transpired at the meet, how the conversations went, and what the “secret” club is all about.
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.