Track & Field Season Preview: Throws
Jan. 13, 2012
MILWAUKEE - Expectations are high for the Marquette throwers this season, who boast a great deal of talent and depth throughout their lineup.
“This group is really exciting,” associate head coach Mike Koenning said. “We have a solid group of upperclassmen and the younger kids are really hard workers and experienced throwers. It is not like any group I have ever had. They work harder, are very talented and don’t have bad days as a group.”
After a great fall of training, Koenning thinks both teams are prepared to top their marks from last year as the season gets underway.
“We have done a lot of competitions this fall and we have seen steady improvement, whether it is how they compete or how far they throw. With the fall intra-squad season we are now ready to have a great year.”
*BIG EAST competitions
The Golden Eagles return a loaded field in the weight and hammer throws and should contend for a great deal of points at the conference championships. With only four competitors allowed from each school at the BIG EAST Conference Championships in the weight throw, Koenning is going to have some difficult decisions to make.
“Anytime we can get multiple scorers in any event at the conference meet it shows the strength of our event,” Koenning said. “Jon (Kusowski), Rob (Bleem) and Bret (Hardin) are all showing that they should be in top five in the conference and the four that get to go in the weight will be a quality group. It is probably the deepest event we have ever had.”
Fifth-year senior Jon Kusowski is the most experienced in the weight throw, holding the No. 3 mark in program history and having competed at three indoor conference championship meets. The Toledo, Ohio native redshirted the indoor campaign last season but appears back ready to contend for the BIG EAST title and Marquette record. Kusowski’s personal record of 54 feet, 4 inches (17.78 meters) is still roughly four feet away from former MU All-American Dan Fax’s top mark.
Sophomore Bret Hardin was a high school All-American in the weight throw and will make his debut in the event this season after joining Kusowski as a redshirt in 2011. The jump to the 35-pound weight required some increased mass from the Acworth, Ga., product and he should contend much of the season at the top of the weight throw performance list.
Kusowski and Hardin staged a back-and-forth battle in the hammer for much of the outdoor season with Hardin edging out Kusowski late in the year.
Kusowski was the higher finisher in the event at the BIG EAST Championships, while Hardin’s No. 2 mark in school history earned him a spot in the West Preliminary Rounds of the NCAA Championships.
This season the duo is focused on making the preliminary rounds and advancing through to the NCAA Championships.
A newcomer to the weight and hammer throws last season, Robert Bleem moved into the top-10 list of the weight, while qualifying for the conference meet in the hammer.
“Last year was the first year throwing the weight and hammer for Rob and he was a conference scorer in the weight as the sixth-place finisher. He will look to contribute in the weight, discus and the hammer where he was the 10th-place finisher after having no experience in that event.”
David Carbajal should also be in the mix to score in the hammer, weight and shot put after dealing with a few injuries over his career.
“David is healthy and he is the strongest guy on the team. He really seems to have matured as an athlete and may be ready to break out in his third year of competition,” Koenning said.
“Will came in without much experience as a high school discus thrower and has gotten a lot stronger and bigger. He has worked really hard and like his sister (women’s thrower Kathryn Koeck), they don’t stop working. He has already thrown farther than the freshman weight record and it will be fun to watch him develop.”
*BIG EAST competitions
Expectations are also high on the women’s side where a trio of sophomores and a World Junior Championships hopeful aim to etch their names on Marquette’s top-10 lists. They join a lone senior in javelin thrower Lauren Benjamin.
The newcomer to the squad is Samantha Kennedy, a 2011 Pan American Games participant for Team Canada. Kennedy was the No. 2 hammer thrower in her age group among all Canadians and should help the Golden Eagles from day one, specifically in the hammer.
“Sam is very experienced on the national and international level, but she is continuing to improve and is a very dedicated thrower," Koenning said. "Sam will look to have a great season and will contribute a lot outdoors by placing high as a qualifier for the World Junior Championships.”
Should Kennedy qualify for the World Juniors she would compete for Team Canada in Barcelona, Spain on July 10-15. She was also recently named to a watch list for possible inclusion on the Canadian Olympic Team in 2016 and 2020.
Kennedy may not have the look of a typical thrower, but Koenning says not to be deceived by her stature.
“What Sam doesn’t have in stature she makes up for in technique and intensity. It is a bit surprising once you see her throw, but she is more powerful than she appears and her experience shows.”
Marquette’s top underclassmen hammer thrower last year was Kathryn Koeck, who set the freshman record with a top toss of 156 feet, 2 inches (47.60 meters) at the Oshkosh Last Chance meet on May 20. That mark is 10th in school history and her improvement has been noticeable this fall.
“Kathryn is much improved in the hammer as well as the weight throw,” Koenning said. “She threw close to 170 feet this fall and she only threw in the 150s last season. She works well with freshman Sam Kennedy because they are similar throwers and can feed off each other a bit.”
Although Koeck is taller than Kennedy, the two are quite similar in size and style. Koenning envisions they two of them competing much the same way Kusowski and Hardin did last year.
“It will be fun to have two people at a higher level in an event on the women’s side like Bret and Jon last year. There is always a bit of a rivalry as they look to edge each other out.”
Sophomore Kristen Gaffey put together a solid freshman year in the shot put, qualifying for both the indoor and outdoor conference meets and leaping into MU’s top-10 list in during each season. The Iowa City, Iowa native placed ninth at both 2011 championships in the event and will look to score points in 2012.
The third sophomore, Kirsten Walker, has improved a great deal and with the work she put in last season should be able to contribute at the conference meets.
“Last year was Kirsten’s first with any technique really, but specifically rotational technique,” Koenning explained. “She is incredibly strong and that could transfer into big throws down the road.”
Koenning thinks the experiences Koeck, Gaffey and Walker shared as freshmen in 2011 will help them in 2012.
“As freshmen they shared a lot of experiences. They can see it in each other as they continue to improve. The bump in the road will be indoors this year, but Kristen will do well in the shot put and I think we have some work to do in the weight throw as all of them continue to get stronger.”
Benjamin, the No. 2 javelin thrower in school history, was elected team captain and her health this season will be key to Marquette’s success in that event.
“We will look for a big year from Lauren as she had a great fall, working through another injury, but when she did compete in practice she did very well,” Koenning said. “She is very dedicated and smart after having come to Marquette without a great deal of experience in the event.”
GOMARQUETTE.COM THE OFFICIAL HOME OF MARQUETTE ATHLETICS