On Saturday, January 28th, 2017, Luis Rivera stepped into the circle for the first time at the Findlay Elite Weight Throw Meet. In it's 11th year, the Findlay Elite meet has been home to some of the best elite Shot-Put and Weight Throw competitions in history. Search for Findlay Elite in YouTube, and you will find a vast archive of amazing performances and competitions.
As the cliche goes, if you would have told me five years ago that Luis Rivera would have been throwing in the Findlay Elite 35lb. Weight Throw competition, I probably would have had to think about it before giving my response. Over the course of the past five years, Luis has developed into one of the hardest working and dedicated athletes I have ever coached.
His hard work, dedication, grit, and persistence since he started throwing has slowly began to pay off. The biggest payoff thus far came this past Saturday. On this date, Luis broke the Puerto Rican National Record in the 35lb. Weight Throw with a toss of 21.22m (69'+). This throw placed him second in a very competitive field of unattached, Division I, and Division II throwers.
I am so proud of Luis' accomplishment in the circle. However, I am more proud of the path he has taken this year to achieve this goal, outside of the throwing circle. Luis is a full-time graduate student in the Human Resource Management program at Nazareth College. He is also a graduate assistant on the Track & Field team. Luis recently started a 20 hour a week internship in Rochester. For those that may say it is difficult to excel at many different arenas of your life I say this to you, Luis has been able to achieve his goals while balancing "life" and the daily struggles that come along with it.
Congratulations Luis on achieving one of your goals. I'm so proud of what you have accomplished in your relatively short throwing career. Next stop, the 2017 USATF Indoor Championships!
Over the course of the past couple days, I have received a lot of feedback about my previous post about post-collegiate throwing. I have engaged in great conversation with a former thrower and SUNY Brockport standout Dom Gonzalez. Dom is a multiple time Division III All-American in the 35lb. Weight Throw and Hammer Throw. At the time of his dominance in the mid 2000's, I was at the tail end of my post-collegiate throwing career. Since then, Dom and I have kept in touch, but most recently we have began discussing our "old" throwing days.
Above you can see the correspondence we had on my Instagram page. With all due respect intended, I asked Dom if he would have continued to throw post-collegiate if he had thrown farther in college. His college personal best is just under 60m (196').
We have exchanged a few text messages since our conversation on Instagram. The researcher in me enjoys talking to people, learning more about them, and asking questions. I will be traveling to Albany in a couple of weeks for school related business. While in the Albany area, Dom has agreed to an interview in which we will discuss post-collegiate throwing, as well as the following questions. For some context, Dom also spent a few years as a throwing coach at a local Division III institution in the greater Rochester area.
My follow-up questions regarding post-collegiate throwing are as follows:
How far does someone need to throw in college in order to keep the dream alive after college? Is it worth-while for someone to continue throwing after college if their personal best in the Hammer is only 60m, or if their best Discus throw is 53m? Where would you draw the line on moving forward and trying to achieve your throwing dream?
I think it is safe to say that maybe 10% of throwers continue throwing (Shot-Put/Discus/Javelin/Hammer/Weight) after graduating from college. If the "dream" is not to qualify for and compete at the biggest stage imaginable, i.e. Olympic Games, then why continue throwing?
Jud Logan, 4x American Hammer Olympian, provides very valuable insight below in a tweet to me when I asked him what to consider when thinking about training as a post-collegiate thrower.
Does anyone else have any thoughts on the subject? If a thrower approached you today, and asked you to coach them through the 2020 Olympics, what would you say? What factors would play a role in your decision?
As always, thanks for reading.
When I first started coaching, I never thought I would have the opportunity to coach post-collegiate throwers. I guess I always thought that I would coach college athletes. The notion of working with high school throwers never really crossed my mind as well.
The more time I spend traveling with our college throwers and talking with other coaches, I have come to the realization that post-collegiate throwers within Western, NY are few and far between. Besides the two post-collegiate throwers I coach, I cannot name many other throwers chasing the goal of qualifying for the USATF Indoor or Outdoor National Championships. Very rarely, if ever, do unattached / post-collegiate throwers compete in meets within the greater Rochester area. This begs the question, where have all the post-collegiate throwers gone?
When I graduated from SUNY Fredonia in 2004, there were many more post-collegiate throwers in the greater Rochester area. A handful of throwers that had graduated from UB as well as from SUNY Brockport were very active. One prominent thrower and graduate of SUNY Brockport competed in multiple USATF Indoor and Outdoor National Championships, including the 2008 Olympic Trials in the hammer throw, Jesse Doty. There may have been more throwers in the mid to late 2000's because of the annual New York State Empire State Games.
The Empire State Games served as an Olympic type festival held in New York State every July-August. The state was broken into six regions. Athletes had to qualify to compete at the games, with the top two athletes from each region advancing to the games. I was fortunate enough to make three Empire State Games teams (2005, 2006, 2008), earning a Bronze medal at the 2006 games held in Rochester. The Track & Field portion of the games was held at the University of Rochester. The Empire State Games were discontinued in the early 2010's.
Empire State Games 2006 held at the University of Rochester. My proudest throwing achievement, finishing 3rd, and earning my first ESG medal.
2006 Empire State Games in Rochester, NY. The only track and field meet my grandparents both came to watch me compete in, ever!
Empire State Games 2008 held at SUNY Binghamton. Was in 3rd place going into round six. I did not improve. My competition did, and I ended up finishing 4th.
Now, getting back to the original comment, where have all the unattached throwers gone? Rochester was a hotbed for very good post-collegiate throwers. Like I mentioned before, Jesse Doty, along with Luis Rivera are probably the best ever. Jake Basher was another great thrower from SUNY Brockport that threw at the Empire State Games and was a Division III All-American. I do not consider myself to be held to the same regard as the three throwers mentioned above. For a couple of years I was competitive. That is about it, competitive.
If it is a facility people are looking for, we have an indoor facility at Nazareth College that is able to accommodate throwers who are chasing their dreams. The reason why I started Forza Athletics is to give people an opportunity to continue throwing after college, in an indoor facility that is welcoming to them. Any throwers are more than welcome to stop by and get a practice in. Most recently, world class Highland Games competitor Matt Hand, another SUNY Brockport graduate, stopped by the indoor facility to get out of the cold before the North/South Competition.
You can be the next thrower to pass through our indoor facility. All you have to do is ask. If you are interested, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luis and I left first thing Friday morning. We left at 5am to be exact. A lake effect snow advisory was sitting right over Erie, PA. Leaving that early in the morning, especially the day of the meet, would give us some time to get down to Ohio with plenty of time to prepare. With good conditions and no snow, the ride from Rochester to Columbus would take about 6.5 hours. In our case, it took just over 7 hours. We didn't lose that much time. Driving through Erie, PA did make me a little nervous. How could I be nervous when the first stop we were going to make was at Rogue Headquarters.
Rogue Headquarters in Columbus, OH is everything you would expect it to be, and then some. Tucked away in a small industrial park, you wouldn't even realize it was there. The people working inside were helpful, engaging, and well informed about the history of Rogue.
Our next stop was checking into the hotel to relax for a few hours, get some lunch, and then head to French Field House.
French Field House is located on Woody Hayes Drive, directly across the street from the football stadium.
Walking around inside French Field House was pretty amazing. Everyone working inside the facility was welcoming and helpful. The field house has two seperate throwing areas. The shot-put competition took place in the infield of the track. The weight competition took place just off the back stretch of the facility.
From what the throwers were saying, it seems the circle was faster than it looked. A simple wooden circle with a metal ring that would produce the leading Division II men's weight throw.
Luis had two warm-up throws before the competition began. His first warm-up throw, pictured directly below, was an interesting one. He very rarely, if ever, releases the weight early. On this particular occasion, the weight slipped out of his hand.
Luis' second warm-up throw went much better. Not as crisp as we have been experiencing in practice, but just another warm-up throw. We knew a big throw was inside of him today.
Above you will find Luis' competition throws. Round 1 was a foul down the left sector line. Luis experienced a similar problem at the USATF Niagara Championship meet the week before. Luis was letting the weight get past his belly button after his right foot came down on his release, which meant that he was going to pull the weight outside the left sector. In practice we work on accelerating through the finish once his right foot comes down on his third turn. This explosion into the sector would typically produce a throw just right of center in the sector.
If you notice in the proceeding throws in the video, Luis slightly rotates his feet in the circle. This little rotation would offset the possibility of Luis pulling the weight outside the left sector. Round 5 would be his best throw of the competition, finishing 5th out of 9 with a throw of 19.76m, a new seasonal best.
So far this season, Luis has more 19.00m+ throws than he had all of last season. His throwing distance average is much higher this season than last, however Luis has yet to achieve the USATF Indoor National automatic qualifying throw of 20.00m+. He is slowing inching his way to that throw.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are able to find some value in this blog post. If so, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you and what you found most valuable or interesting from this post.
After four short practices over the course of the past couple of weeks, Forza Athletics thrower Savannah Cook opened her season at the 2016 USATF Niagara Indoor Track & Field Championships.
The calm before the storm.
Women's weight got the throwing events started. A majority of the women competing were unattached, with a few collegiate athletes, and one high school thrower. Our goal for the meet was to have fun, get some good marks, and build upon what we have been working on over the course of the past couple of weeks.
Savannah started out a little off balanced, not being patient with her right foot. As you can see through a couple of her throws, she does not allow her right foot come open up to the sector, thus causing some errant throws.
Our wins for the meet were:
I'm very proud of Savannah and what she was able to accomplish in her first meet of the 2016-17 season. I look forward to coaching and mentoring Savannah through the remainder of this indoor and outdoor seasons.
Thank you for reading!
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.