Throwing coach Anderson ‘like a second mom’

Lou Raguse

Many track and field throwers coming into the Minnesota track and field program have not thrown a hammer before.

After all, the hammer throw isn’t even an event in Minnesota State High School League meets.

So improvement from season to season is expected, but when someone such as Gophers sophomore Liz Alabi adds 38 feet to her throw in one year, one has to wonder where the improvement comes from.

Women’s head coach Gary Wilson credits one person – veteran throwers coach Lynne Anderson.

“First of all, she’s one of the very best coaches in the country,” Wilson said. “She also has a very good knack – she can look at a kid and in 10 or 15 minutes say, ‘You know what, this kid has some potential.’ “

Anderson is in her 23rd year coaching the Gophers’ throwers. Up until five years ago, she had worked with both the men’s and women’s teams.

One of Anderson’s most successful projects in recent years is senior Alean Frawley.

Frawley was a walk-on in 2000, but last year she set the school shot put record with a toss of 53-5.5.

However, this season it’s Alabi who has come into her own as a thrower, earning her personal best in the shot put and hammer at the Iowa Twilight meet last weekend.

Her hammer throw of 178-9 won the meet and was an astounding 38 feet farther than her best throw last season.

Recruited as a raw athlete from Brooklyn Center High School, Anderson said Alabi’s form was rough at first.

“She was our typical (freshman hammer thrower) – uncoordinated and slow,” Anderson said. “But she threw 142 feet last year. Now she’s on her way up to – who knows.”

Alabi said Anderson taught her everything she knows about the hammer, but is also a great coach because she cares.

“She makes you feel like you can do it on your own,” Alabi said. “She’s like a second mom.”

Anderson, who was an Olympian in 1976 and 1980, had quite a prestigious throwing career of her own. She even has an award named after her at Oregon, her alma mater.

But unlike some great athletes who don’t make a good transition to coaching, Wilson said Anderson understands the learning process.

“That’s the thing about Lynne – she is a teacher,” Wilson said. “She had to work for everything she did, too, so she’s got a good understanding of what people can do and where we can take them.”

This weekend, the Gophers host the Minnesota Last Chance meet. Anderson said all the throwers will participate, although they might not compete in their usual events.

The focus now is on the Big Ten Championships on May 14-16. Anderson said the throwers are ready.

“With throwers, you have to let them go,” Anderson said. “They have to be free to do what they need to do. And you can’t be putting in new ideas, because that can be debilitating.”

At the Big Ten meet, there is a much larger emphasis on the team’s score than in other meets. But Anderson said her throwers need to stay concerned with their own events.

“The Big Ten meet is an emotional event,” Anderson said. “You can get lost in the emotion of it and forget about yourself and be flat for your event. If you don’t take care of your event, then the team score makes no difference.”