Gophers freshmen weigh in on new event

Michael Dougherty

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of Sherlock Holmes’ sleuthing partner Watson, “Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age.”
In terms of women’s track and field, the NCAA plays Watson to Minnesota throwing coach Lynne Anderson’s Holmes.
Anderson has wanted to see the addition of the 20 pound weight throw to women’s track and field for quite some time. And this year her wish finally came to fruition. This is the inaugural season for the indoor 20 pound weight throw, and it’s outdoor counterpart, the hammer throw.
When asked about the NCAA’s reluctance to add the event, Anderson described their philosophy as something that could be considered a bit Watsonian.
“Change is difficult (for the NCAA),” Anderson said. “After all, it took them 47 years to add the javelin.”
Anderson, in her 18th season as the throwing coach for both the women’s and men’s track teams, is no stranger to success, both as a coach and as a world-class athlete.
She has a storied career in competition, having been part of both the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic track and field teams in the discus.
She was also an assistant coach for the 1997 United States team which competed at the World Championships in Athens, Greece. Gophers women’s head coach Gary Wilson says Anderson is one of the top five throwing coaches in the country.
This year, she’s getting a chance to prove it. With the introduction of the new event comes some growing pains — primarily finding athletes who are eager to learn a completely new type of event.
Anderson has been fortunate so far, compiling a strong core of three excitable redshirt freshmen in Aubrey Schmitt, Brenda Meyer and Angie Hill.
“I’m impressed with all of them,” Anderson said. “Each one of them has their own strengths. Aubrey is very strong and can manipulate the weight. Brenda is very technician-oriented and has caught on to the technique in its entirety, while Angie is having to learn it from scratch.”
Schmitt has had the most success so far this season, winning one event and taking second in the other two. With a throw of 54 feet, 11 inches as her personal best, Schmitt set the high-water mark for Meyer and Hill.
Despite her strong performances in the weight throw, it is not Schmitt’s best event. By putting the shot 51-7 3/4 in winning the Badger Classic on Jan. 24, Schmitt moved into second place on the Gophers’ all-time list.
She has taken titles in all three shot put events this season and her throw at the Badger Classic has provisionally qualified her for the NCAA Indoor Championships held March 13-14 in Indianapolis.
Schmitt, from Hastings, Minn., attributes her success to Anderson’s coaching.
“You can never have the perfect throw,” she said. “You may get a ‘pretty good’ or a ‘great throw’ remark from Lynne, but you never get her to say, ‘That was a perfect throw.'”
A biology major, Schmitt loves outdoor activities like camping and hiking and hopes to someday be an ecologist.
Being outdoors seems to be a thread that links two-thirds of this close-knit group together, considering Meyer’s love of deer hunting.
“I have three older brothers who all love to deer hunt,” Meyer said, “so I grew up learning to do it.”
With two top five finishes this season in the weight throw and a personal best of 49-8, Meyer has set a goal of reaching the 50-foot mark.
Meyer, a physical therapy major, thinks of her weight-throwing counterparts as good friends.
Meanwhile, Hill looks to a different type of activity to relax. Her passion is rhythm and blues music, and she can always be seen with headphones on before a meet.
“The music relaxes me,” she said. “It allows me to get really focused.”
Hill, a psychology major, also shoots for 50 feet as her goal. Her personal best is 47-0.
With Anderson’s attention to detail in regards to her throwers’ techniques, it is obvious how she has attained the level of success that she has. Her coaching axiom in regards to her newest charges is also similar to something Holmes used to tell Watson: “You know my methods. Apply them.”
The trio of throwers has been receptive to the message so far.
“We all came into this at the same time,” Meyer said, “so we are learning together. I really enjoy being part of something special.”