Ritchie: Throwers take Center Stage at West Coast Classic

Pac-12 track and field athletes lead the nation in eight events after last weekend's action

Posted on April 22, 2021

Steve Ritchie
  By Steve Ritchie, SportsPac12

The University of Oregon and the University of Arizona co-hosted the West Coast Classic last Saturday with throwers and distance runners heading to Eugene and sprinters and jumpers competing in Tucson.

Both meet venues produced some outstanding performances, but from this perspective, the throwers gathered in Eugene were the highlight.

Pac-12 athletes lead the nation in eight events after last weekend’s action, and four of those NCAA-leading performances are in men’s shot and discus and women’s shot and hammer.

All three of those national leaders competed in Eugene Saturday and all set personal records.

Turner Washington, ASU sophomore, has been tearing it up in the shot all year, winning the NCAA indoor title and setting a new NCAA indoor record. Since the start of the outdoor season, he is doing much the same in the discus, while also maintaining his dominant form in the shot. 

Noennig

On the women’s side, Arizona’s Samantha Noennig powered the shot out to 59-7½ to win her event by four feet and up her national lead. Noennig will be chasing her third NCAA title in Eugene in June.

Cal‘s Camryn Rogers, also a past NCAA champ, was just as impressive in winning the hammer throw. Rogers tossed the hammer 239-9, which was not just a personal record and a NCAA leader, but also surpassed the Olympic standard and put her in fourth place all-time on the NCAA hammer list.

The conference also has depth in the throwing area as well. Sun Devil Jorinde Van Klinken is second on the NCAA discus list and beat Noennig in that event Saturday by 18 feet.

Alyssa Wilson of UCLA is second in the Pac-12 and the nation to Rogers in the hammer throw. Male shot putters from Pac-12 schools take up five spots in the top ten nationally, and three of the NCAA top ten in the discus are also from the Pac-12.

Washington

Right now, however, the light shines the brightest on Turner Washington. He has a very good chance to win shot and discus at the NCAA Outdoor Meet, and has a realistic chance to make the U.S. Olympic Team this year in one or, possibly, both events, a very rare feat among elite throwers.

There is quite a back story to Washington’s ascent, too. His father is Anthony Washington, who made three Olympic teams in the discus and won the world championship in 1999. The elder Washington coached his son in the throws early on and Turner was a highly-recruited discus thrower at Canyon Del Oro High School in Tucson. 

When it came time to choose a college, Washington went with the home town Wildcats, even though he said he was not a big UA fan when he was younger. But his first year at Arizona (2017-18) did not go as planned, due in part to “philosophical differences,” Washington has said.

He chose to transfer to the in-state rivals in Tempe, where he would be coached by Brian Blutreich, a teammate of Anthony Washington’s on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team.

(A side note: A year after Washington transferred from UA to ASU, Samantha Noennig did the opposite, transferring from ASU to UA. Both became NCAA champions at their new schools.)

After sitting out one year due to a fractured pelvis and then missing the following year because of the pandemic, Washington came into 2021 on a mission. In February Washington broke the NCAA Indoor Record in the shot with a mark of 71-8¼. In March he won the NCAA Indoor title in the shot. 

One week after claiming the NCAA crown, he broke the ASU school record in the discus at 210-8—his first discus competition in nearly three years. He has since broken that record two more times, the latest on Saturday at Hayward Field, when he threw 217′ 5″, number six all time by a D1 collegian and a NCAA leader by six feet this season.

Keep in mind that his latest record-setting tear was in the discus, not the shot. But Washington continues his winning ways in the shot as well. He won the shot easily on Saturday with a toss of 68-2.

That is three and a half feet short of his NCAA indoor record throw, but still leads the nation by a huge margin of three feet.

Winning major championships in both events at the highest level of track and field just doesn’t happen much. The shot and discus are in reality quite different.

One of the best to do both well was ASU star Ryan Whiting, who won five NCAA championships in the shot and one in the discus. At the world level, Whiting focused on the shot and won three medals in World Championship meets.

Blutreich

Washington‘s coach Brian Blutreich described the difficulty of training for both events to Track & Field News in February:

“When we start the discus, that becomes a little bit trickier because we’re now going to be focusing on two events instead of one. Two different techniques, two different timings, two different rhythms. So he’s going to have to start learning the difference between the two and stay at a high level, whereas these other guys pretty much do just shot only.”

Stay tuned to Washington’s progress through the NCAAs and the Olympic Trials. This will be interesting.




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