Junior Caitlin Caraway looks like she could be a runner or a jumper but not someone who hurls a shot put or discus. The Minnesota native never had an interest in throwing until an eighth grade gym teacher saw a hidden strength in her.
Now in her third year throwing for the University of Montana, Caraway is glad she made the choice to start throwing.
“Nowhere in the Big Sky Conference can you just look around and see mountains,” Caraway said. “We have a good outdoor facility and all of Griz Nation, no matter if we’re just on the track team.”
In track and field, there are four different events in which athletes can participate: shot put, discus throw, javelin throw and hammer throw. Most of the events have historic roots from ancient times and have all been features in Olympic track and field.
Caraway said her favorite events are the hammer throw and discus because of her small size. The events vary depending on whether she is throwing indoors or outdoors.
As a student athlete, Caraway balances classes for her Health and Human Performance major and also time spent working out. She said she lifts four times a week in the morning, gets in two technique practices a week, throws hammer four times a week and gets in two running condition practices.
All of this practice helps her overcome what she lacks that a “typical” thrower would have. At 5-foot-7 and slim, Caraway said she is at a disadvantage because she has shorter arms than her competition. As a smaller thrower, she also has less mass. The more mass someone has, the more momentum they create when throwing.
Second-year assistant coach Jimmy Stanton said throwers vary in physique.
“An offensive lineman can’t be small and good, but a thrower can be good if they are small and explosive,” Stanton, who coaches shot put and discus, said. “You have to be graceful powerful and explosive. ”
The women’s throwing program has recently had success from freshman newcomer Samantha Hodgson. The Billings native, who swept the shot put and discus titles at the 2012 AA Montana state track meet, finished the indoor track season strong at the Big Sky Conference indoor championship. At the meet, Hodgson placed sixth with a season-best shot put of 45-and-a-half feet.
Caraway showed Hodgson around on her visit when she came to the campus and said Hodgson brings a lot to the track program at UM, and she already sees the potential in Hodgson.
“Sam is going to be a huge contributor to our track team,” Caraway said. “She’s going to be getting points at every conference meet until she graduates, and she’ll be winning some of the conference meets for sure. As a freshman throwing far — and her discus is far — she’s going to be hard to beat a lot of the time.”
Stanton said even though the women are smaller, they are successful because of the time they spend on technique.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do,” Stanton said referring to the technicality of throwing. “Track and field is just a test of athleticism. It’s not like where in football you can make a tackle if you’re a little off. If you’re a little out of position on the throw you don’t make it as well.”
Outdoor track and field for UM Grizzles starts March 29 at the Al Manuel Invitational in Missoula.