By: Alena McGonigle, Track and Field
My high school and collegiate years of throwing have been very different; both challenging and successful; each brought about in a unique way. And, yet, there is one constant memory and lesson that has stayed with me throughout all eight years.
I began throwing my freshman year of high school, falling instantly in love with a sport I vowed I would never participate in for various reasons. Both of my sisters were runners and since i was not an “avid” runner per se, I was encouraged to try my hand at throwing. After my first indoor throws practice with my highly energetic and devoted high school coach, I knew I was hooked. I spent the next four years competing for a team that had more throwers than sprinters and a coach who found it necessary to do cartwheels and play football at practice to improve our techniques.
Throwing in league conference my senior year meant warming up by competing in shot (it was not my specialty at the time) and focusing on my discus throws. As the discus got underway, the weather began to change. In the midst of throwing, a thunder and lightning warning was issued and we were told to wait inside until it was clear to throw again. I have always struggled with my mental game and focus and as we waited, for what felt like hours, my nerves and anxiety were rising in anticipation of my final throws. When we were finally cleared to continue, my coach worked hard to get me focused and pumped to throw again. I was able to focus on my last few throws setting me up to finish first in the league. For me this excitement stemmed from the mental stability I was able to reconvene, much of which I owe to my awesome coach’s guidance and mentorship.
When I was offered the opportunity to throw at the University of Richmond, I was thrilled. Not only would I be able to compete in a sport I loved at the D1 level, but I would also be on the same team as my sister who happened to be a runner for Richmond at the time. Similar to my high school career, competing at Richmond has proved to be both challenging and exciting. Going from a team of throwers that outnumbered sprinters to a team where i am the only thrower was the hardest transition from high school to college throwing for me. However, having the devotion and support from a coach who has pushed me in all aspects of my training has allowed for me to grow both as an athlete and as an individual. Ron has pushed me and supported me, allowing me to feel included and just as much a part of the team as if there were 100 throwers (what a thought!). During my sophomore year, I was a part of a team that was comprised of members who were devoted to compete to the best of their ability. Being a part of a team that was so focused allowed for us to tie for second at the A10 Indoor Conference, something that was unexpected but well deserved by the girls on the team. I will never forget being able to share in the excitement of my team and especially sharing those moments with my sister.
And, although winning a gold medal and trophy stand out as highlights to my throwing career, I feel that I will be able to walk away from this experience in May, knowing that beyond the hardware is the importance of a strong support system, mentors and team in order to accomplish group and individual goals; without my coaches, teammates or family, my throwing career would most likely never have started and the making of these memories would not have been possible.