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Tom Anderson of Andover High School practiced the discuss on Tuesday.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Maggie Ewen of St. Francis High School practiced the discuss on Tuesday.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Record-holding throwers need more room

  • Article by: DAVID La VAQUE
  • Star Tribune
  • May 29, 2012 - 1:39 PM
Tom Anderson and Maggie Ewen are smashing shot put and discus records this spring while rendering some schools' throwing spaces obsolete.

Anderson, a senior at Andover who claimed the boys' shot put state record in April with a mark of 65 feet, 8 inches, did not compete at Blaine this season lest he heave the shot over a retaining wall.

Ewen, a junior at St. Francis who threw the discus 172-7 earlier this month to break her own record for a second time, inspired Saints coaches to change the angle of the sector to keep her ever-lengthening throws from landing inside a line of trees.

The pair live within 15 miles of each other in the north metro. They also share regal athletic bloodlines -- both of Anderson's parents and Ewen's father were throwers at or near Olympic caliber -- that make the pair naturally adept at events requiring unnatural body movements.

While Anderson and Ewen have spoken only in passing, they share a rich understanding of what it means to be elite. They will compete this week at the Class 2A, Section 7 meet in Princeton, looking to qualify for the state meet June 8-9.

"To have two of the elite [throwers] in the country in our section is certainly special," St. Francis coach Andy Forbort said. "The best part is, they are both humble and just enjoy doing what they do."

Attracting crowds

Watching Anderson or Ewen hurl the shot or discus skyward with an explosive thrust draws the oohs and aahs of a fireworks display.

Their seemingly limitless potential for success has fostered hope among spectators that a given meet could bring something special.

A reverential hush set in as Anderson entered the circle and prepared to shot put at the True Team state meet May 18 at Stillwater High School. Top-seeded competitors are among the last to throw at meets. The wait, coupled with Anderson's potential, only heightened the anticipation of the nearly 50 spectators.

"Here he comes," said one. Nearby, a thrower from Stillwater recalled Anderson's state record-setting performance about a month earlier on this same spot. That throw broke, by 2 inches, the mark set by Mounds View's Nate Englin in 2003.

"It didn't even land in the dirt," the Stillwater thrower said. "It came down in the grass."

Anderson whirled and heaved but could not muster another record-breaker at Stillwater. He eventually ditched the more explosive but technically demanding spin for a conservative standing throw that still won him the event on his final attempt.

Earlier in the week, Ewen broke her own state discus record for the second time (last year she broke the state record with a 165-9 throw in May and bettered that mark later with a 166-8 effort).

Warming up during the North Suburban Conference meet at Irondale, Ewen unleashed a throw that caused a competitor from St. Louis Park to remark, "Yeah, that's like 60 to 70 feet farther than mine."

Ewen wasn't finished. She later let go of a throw that drew a cheer from a Benilde-St. Margaret's male thrower in midair. The discus finally touched the earth to the sounds of clapping, cheering and the whirring of the tape measure. Ewen not only broke her record, she brought Minnesota high school girls throwing into the 170-foot club. It's a breakthrough mark comparable to when Lakeville's Liz Podominick became the first female to shot put more than 50 feet (52-4¾ in 2003).

Her parents, coach and teammates ran to congratulate Ewen. Her father said, "You just went into a very exclusive group of juniors."

A Benilde-St. Margaret's coach offered his kudos, saying, "It sure is fun to see one fly like that."

Greatness expected

A two-season assault on the record books has provided increased fanfare and frustration for Anderson and Ewen, who both aim to set standards with each throw.

Pressure comes in many forms, much of it inherited. Anderson's parents, Colin (shot put) and Lynne (discus throw), were former Olympic team qualifiers. Lynne reigned as the American record holder in the discus from 1977 to '79 and has coached more than 20 All-America throwers in more than 30 seasons with the Gophers.

Bruce Ewen participated at the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials in the hammer throw. Kristi Ewen played collegiate volleyball. Maggie, 5-11, takes after mom on the court, posting more than 400 kills last fall and earning North Suburban Conference MVP honors.

In an effort to keep their children on task, Bruce Ewen has taught his daughter the mantra "inch by inch it's a cinch" while Colin Anderson, Tom's throw coach at Andover, reminds his son "it's a process."

"His mother and I have probably made 85,000 throws in our lifetimes, and not all of them were good," he said.

Smashing state records only added to the attention and expectation.

"There's a lot more pressure because now I'm known as the Division I athlete, the state record holder," said the 6-4, 255-pound Anderson, who has committed to Arizona State.

The official running the shot put at the Hamline Elite Meet introduced Anderson as the state record-holder, then later worried he might have jinxed the young man. Anderson said it wasn't too big of a distraction.

Said Ewen: "It's nice getting recognition from people. It's not always wanted, but it's appreciated."

Not satisfied

Anderson and Ewen are training toward peak performances in the season's final weeks while taking different approaches.

Anderson has made his lofty goal public. He wants to be the first Minnesota high school thrower to break the 70-foot barrier in shot put. He has gone 67 feet in practice.

Colin, who in 1969 became the first male in state history to surpass 60 feet in the shot put, has reminded his son to "slow down, stay in a good rhythm and don't try to throw 70 feet every time."

Defeating opponents by an average of about 40 feet per meet this season forces Ewen to try to top herself. Her latest record throw washed away some trepidation about chasing her previous best marks set last year.

"My goal is to do better than I've done in the past," she said. "I hadn't really done that this year so finally achieving that goal was really nice."

If 70 feet happens for Anderson or Ewen bests her record again, the toss will reflect the meticulous preparation of a driven perfectionist.

"There are so many little technical things that you have to do just right," Ewen said. "There's always something to work on."

Asked for his response when solicited for advice on his competitive mindset, Anderson said, "I put my determination and drive toward what I want to do and I just don't stop until I'm satisfied. And I'm not even close to satisfied yet."

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

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