Nimbly — almost rhythmically — they twirl, they sway, they step. What differentiates them from dancers is the fact that they go through these motions with a huge weight in their hands.
“It’s a little like ballet almost,” said Bruce Hescock, coach of the throwers on the men’s track and field team.
These throwers compete in the 16.1-lb shot put as well as the 35-lb weight throw, an event that is specific to the indoor season. This weekend, the Bulldogs will be competing in a dual meet against Harvard at Cambridge, and throwers like Eoghan O’Dwyer ’04 and John Langhauser ’07 will do their part to ensure an Eli victory.
O’Dwyer is one of the primary Bulldog competitors in the weight throw. He has been throwing since high school, but only began the weight throw at Yale.
“It has been the first long stretch of training I have been able to do since I have been sick and injured in the past,” O’Dwyer said. “The training has been big for me.”
O’Dwyer currently stands 13th in the Ivy League for his event, ahead of the Cantabs’ James Rhodes and Christopher Ware.
According to Hescock, the weight throw is a challenging event because it requires strength, speed, and technique. A thrower grabs the clasp of the weight and begins spinning it overhead before moving his body at all. At this point, he extends his arms together, spinning closer and closer to the boundaries of the 2.13-meter throwing circle, finally releasing the weight with the momentum he has generated.
“You have to let [the weight] hang,” Hescock said. “Radius and rhythm are important and you can’t try to bull it.”
Beginners usually spin once before release, whereas skilled throwers rotate three times before throwing. Hescock said spinning turns small mistakes into large problems, therefore novices are trained to spin less.
Hescock has been coaching at Yale since 1968, starting off as the field coach before focusing on throwing. At practice, Hescock sits on a bench outside the throwing cage, intently watching the proceedings. The throwers, generally relaxed and focused, take their turns practicing with either the weight or the shot put. As the athletes make their turns and steps, Hescock notes everything but keeps his comments brief. The throwers can figure a lot out for themselves, but Hescock is ever-present, sometimes even demonstrating the best technical adjustments.
“He is a silent influence on us,” O’Dwyer said. “He lets us find our own groove but is really good about focusing us.”
“[Hescock] really knows his stuff and is very helpful,” Langhauser said.
Langhauser focuses mainly on the shot put, utilizing the spinning technique as opposed to the gliding technique, in which the thrower jumps backwards before turning and launching the shot.
Langhauser said the transition from high school to the collegiate level has been challenging.
“The four extra pounds on the shot put make it tough,” he said. “I don’t really feel like I have improved a lot.”
At practice Tuesday, Langhauser stood in the cage with a shot in his hand on his shoulder. With a look of intense concentration on his face, he traced the spinning steps again and again before throwing. He was seeking complete control and precision. In between throws, Langhauser stayed active by doing a range of calisthenics and strengthening activities.
This weekend against the Crimson, Langhauser will focus on the shot put, O’Dwyer on the weight throw. However, because O’Dwyer has a slight knee injury, Langhauser might also throw the weight. Unfortunately for the Elis, Nate Lawrie ’04 will not be competing this weekend but will throw at Heps in two weeks. Hescock said because of Lawrie’s height and strength, he would be the favorite in each event at Cambridge.
Langhauser said he wants to throw a personal best and score by breaking into the high fifteen meter range. O’Dwyer, on the other hand, said winning is foremost on his mind.
“I want to finish first and support my teammates,” O’Dwyer said. “As long as we all have the same attitude, a bit of support goes a long way. “