This season, I’ve been lucky enough to travel with the team. I’m not saying I’ve been lucky to emphasize the great opportunity track provides to travel.  I’m saying it because a few different things had to happen in order for me to be able to. What began the series of fortunate events was how I opened up the season. The first practice outdoors produced my furthest throws to date. Why? I have no idea. Next, I did a very uncharacteristic thing in calling my coach to ask about lifting my redshirt, and he said he would. Lastly and most importantly, the best discus thrower in the Big Ten, Lonnie Pugh (who happens to be my teammate), decided to redshirt this outdoor season. Because of all these factors, and maybe some divine intervention I wasn’t aware of, I was allowed to go to Arizona State for our second track meet of the season, the 31st Sun Angel Classic.

It. Was. Awesome. The plane ride took around four hours from Chicago to Phoenix. We stayed in the always classy Best Western, right across the street from In-N-Out Burger. Hammer throwers competed on Friday, and all other events took place on Saturday. Since we arrived on Thursday of that week, I had a few days to enjoy and semi-relax before competing.

I was in the second flight of four, and ended up throwing 48.74 on my second throw, which was a new pr. While I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t altogether satisfied either, because I felt I had been limited by something.

My problem wasn’t the Arizona sun, or anything related to the climate. It was nerves. I hadn’t been that nervous throwing since I can remember. I’m not sure what factors played a role in making my legs feel like rubber, but it was a very humbling experience.

Later that night, as I stood by a fence near the shot put area, I saw an older guy with a bunch of bugs collecting on the back of his shirt. I went over to brush them off and we started up a conversation. Soon enough, I found out that he was Mr. L Jay Silvester, former world record holder in the discus.

He was a very interesting man, and we talked for a while as we watched Ryan Whiting throw the world leading mark in the Shot. We discussed a number of things such as old school throwers, steroids, improvements in the sport, theories on form, etc. At the end of the competition, I realized that I should probably join my team to avoid pissing off my coaches. Before I left, I asked Mr. Silvester one last question, “How did you deal with nerves when you competed?” He said it was something that took him a long time to figure out (he produced his best throws after the age of 30), and that you simply had to learn to use them to your advantage. By turning nervousness into excitement you could potentially harness all of the jitters into your throw. Enlightened, I shook his hand and rejoined my team.

I got a lot out of that meet in terms of experience. I watched some high level collegiate throwers go at it, and got to talk to one of the sports all time greats. Also, I was introduced to the “Double-Double” at In-N-Out Burger. Thank you MSU Track and Field.