The Bishop Fenwick and St. John’s Prep winter track programs are in a small, exclusive group.
As members of the Tri-County League, Fenwick and St. John’s have the option of teaching and competing in the weight throw, a throwing field event that looks like a shot put attached to a chain but requires a completely different throwing technique.
The Tri-County League supplies officials and measures the throws at meets, but they do not count toward scoring. The distances, however, do allow the athletes to qualify for postseason events, including next month’s New Balance Indoor Nationals.
Each program has been teaching the event for the last four or five years, and the response has been fantastic.
“They love it. It’s scary and cumbersome and a challenge for smaller-frame kids. It knocks the crap out of them,” said Bishop Fenwick head coach Jay Smith, who noted he only knows of four or five schools in the area that are involved in teaching the event.
“They love it for the challenge, and we can teach it in a way that they achieve success relatively quickly. It’s something that sets them apart — not unlike the pole vault. It’s one of those things where throwers from other schools, when they’re throwing 25 pounds 60 feet, people respond to that.”
Although the weight looks like a ball and chain, it does not hinder the athletes’ advancement.
Taking practice time away from the shot put — the winter’s main event for most weight throwers — might be thought of as detrimental to one’s development. But the coaches and athletes believe it helps to have multiple events on which to focus. It’s also a huge advantage for athletes who intend to continue throwing in college, where the weight throw is a normal event.