At 6 feet 2 inches and 230 pounds, Colton Aho ’15 resembles a tank. Lean, muscular and physically intimidating, Aho easily fits into any athletic environment. And, as one would expect, Aho can often be seen in both the field house and the Matchbox. However, he doesn’t play basketball, football or lacrosse: Aho is a thrower. More specifically, he’s a shot putter.
At Swarthmore, the throwing portion of the track and field team consists of shot put, discus, and javelin. Surprisingly, just three of the 34 members of the men’s track and field team and two of the thirty-four members of the women’s team specialize in throwing. The most probable reason for this under-representation is that throwing is suited to a limited portion of the student body. A discus weighs 4.4 pounds. A men’s shot put weighs 16 pounds, while a women’s shot put weighs 8.8 pounds. Not only are discuses and shot puts heavy, but the thrower also needs to perform a very meticulous motion in order to launch the objects.
Razi Shaban ’16 said, “People have a lot of trouble making the transition from other sports to throwing …. It’s a very unnatural motion because what you’re doing is using every possible angle in your body to move [the disc or the shot put] in one direction.”
Aho alluded to this arduous process of adaptation as well. “[Throwing a shot put is] really dissimilar to anything I’ve ever done before. [It’s] very counter intuitive to throwing a baseball,” he said.
Though shot put and baseball both involve throwing a ball, the two could not be farther apart otherwise. First and foremost, when throwing a baseball, the ideal release point is directly out in front of the thrower’s body so that the thrower’s fingers point directly at their target. Meanwhile, a shot put thrower begins with the ball resting in their hand by their chest. Then, their arm extends up, releasing the ball as their arm jolts towards the sky. Ironically, if a baseball player threw the ball with a shot put motion, the ball would travel at a trivial speed. On the other hand, if shot putters threw their ball (which weighs 50 times more than a baseball) like baseball players throw theirs, shot putters would almost immediately dislocate their shoulder.
However, even though adaption to shot put and discus can take years, two of the three throwers on the men’s team (Shaban and Aho) walked on to the team in the middle of their college careers. Aho joined the team last year and has consistently improved. He went from never throwing a shot put in his life to placing eighth in the 2014 Centennial Conference tournament. This year Aho has finished as high as sixth, and he expects to build on his recent results.
“[Our] throwers have been pretty successful,” Aho noted. “Myself and freshman Andrew Jansen continue to improve. We pretty much PR every single meet. So it’s been going pretty well.”
For this reason, there’s hope for Shaban who is entering his second month on the throwing team. “I’ve learned a lot really quickly …. I’m still learning.” Shaban said. “There are three or four progressions to the final [discus] throw. But I’ve only been learning the full throw. It’s hard for a lot of people to learn. But fortunately with good coaching it’s come quickly.”
Although Shaban and Aho were forced to learn the form at accelerated rates, Jansen and Maggie O’Neil ’17 both competed in shot put throughout high school. O’Neil, also a member of the women’s varsity basketball team, has thrown shot put since eighth grade.
O’Neil said, “I have played a lot of sports in my life and shot put is different because it requires a short burst of power and the form is really important.” When highlighting form, O’Neill, like Aho and Shaban, stressed how imperative it is to throw the right way.
Osazenoriuwa Ebose ’15 has been an outstanding member of the women’s track and field team for the past four years. This past saturday at the Elligott Invitational hosted by Haverford College, Ebose launched the shot put 42 feet 11.50 inches which earned her the first-place win at the invitational and shaved an inch off of her previous personal record. Ebose has won multiple awards throughout the 2013 and 2014 seasons for her performance in the shot put, including three 2014 Centennial Conference Field Athlete of the Week awards and All-Centennial Conference First and Second Team awards. Ebose has been continuously improving her throws in shot put and discus and serves as the gold standard for what a thrower’s form should look like.
All in all, regardless of whether these players have a good body for football, lacrosse, or rugby, if their form is poor, none of them will attain success.