One-sport life begins today for Podominick

Liz Podominick left the basketball team to pursue throwing full-time.

David McCoy

Even Deion Sanders eventually had to pick just one.

The life of a dual-sport athlete is a tough one, balancing practice, training, travel and games – times two. It’s a life that Minnesota women’s track and field thrower Liz Podominick knows well, and a life she no longer could handle.

Podominick was part of the mass exodus from Minnesota’s women’s basketball team over the past month, when five players left the team over the course of 13 days.

Podominick announced she was leaving the team April 4 to focus exclusively on her track and field career.

And today, when she takes her first competitive throws of this season at the Lee Krough Invitational at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, it signals the end of one kind of life for Podominick and the beginning of another.

“I never think it’s bad to do two sports,” said coach Gary Wilson. “But I think there

does come a time in every athlete’s career where they decide, ‘OK, I’ve really got to focus on this.’ “

Podominick, who played in the frontcourt on the basketball team and throws discus and shot put in the field, said she originally planned to play both sports all four years. But the physical demands became too great.

“I loved basketball, but I think my body was telling me I just couldn’t handle it another year,” she said. “Obviously it was unfortunate with the timing with all the other stuff that was going on, but I think this is really something that I need to do.”

Extra time to devote to track and field was the biggest factor for Podominick, who won the Big Ten Outdoor discus and shot put titles last year and dreams of competing in the Olympics.

Podominick will attempt to make the U.S. 2008 squad headed for Beijing, and Wilson said the extra year of preparation before Olympic trials will serve to her benefit. Wilson said that although making the 2008 team will be a daunting task, Podominick will at least have a good chance of making the Olympics at some point in her career.

“She’s got talent and the ability to make an Olympic team down the road, but you have to take care of business,” Wilson said. “It will speed up her progress.”

Podominick is looking forward to the benefits of narrowing her focus.

“All the really good throwers have been able to just concentrate on throwing,” Podominick said. “I might look big on the basketball court, but in throwers’ terms, I’m small. So I just really need to improve in terms of muscle mass and little things.”

Podominick didn’t want to say whether the departure of the other basketball players factored into her decision, but there were other considerations.

Wilson said he isn’t yet sure if or when he’ll be able to provide scholarship money for Podominick, who previously was supported by the women’s basketball team.

“Obviously, she’s worth a full scholarship,” Wilson said. “She’s worth two full scholarships, as far as that goes. But I know one thing. I can’t be over 18 scholarships. Because if I am, I don’t pay my mortgage because I get fired. And at all costs, it’s all about Gary Wilson not getting fired – that’s what it’s about.”

Although today is the start of something new, Podominick still maintained the same post-basketball routine as last year.

She took a week off after basketball season, and then slowly worked her way up in her throwing workouts, concentrating mostly on basics and then throwing more and more.

And with today’s low-key meet featuring mostly Division III competition and maximum coach involvement, it’s the perfect setting for Podominick to ease back into things.

“She’ll do her warm-ups and we’ll talk an awful lot during the meet,” said throwing coach Lynne Anderson. “She’s by far not ready to go compete at a high level yet, but she’ll throw far just naturally because of her strength.”

Today’s meet is just a warm-up. The future is what matters most. And in that regard, Podominick knows she’ll be just fine.

“I’m not worried about this year, because I know that next year will probably be the year I see the most improvement,” Podominick said. “So I’m really excited for that. I just kind of took a leap of faith and hopefully it will pay off.”