Young Throwers Have Excelled For Pack Track & Field
May 24, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Here’s the dish on NC State’s top men’s and women’s discus throwers: They are among the best in the country.
Sophomore Nathaniel Williams and redshirt freshman Tremanisha Taylor have both been break-out performers this season for the Wolfpack and both are looking for good marks this weekend at the NCAA East Regional Preliminary meet, which begins Thursday at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.
His mark of 189-feet, 1-inch at the Raleigh Relays was only 18 inches off the school record set by James Rowell in 2004 and is the fourth best of the 48 throwers at this weekend’s preliminary meet. The top 12 in each event will advance to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in two weeks at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
Williams is hoping to overcome the nervousness that contributed to his 23rd-place finish at last year’s regional meet.
“Last year, I couldn’t calm down for anything,” said the native of Newport, N.C. “I guess I was nervous and scared, being with so many great throwers who were all older than me.
“My goal this weekend is to stay calm. If I can do that, I’ll throw well. If I’m too jittery, things won’t turn out right.”
For Williams, football was the pathway into track and field. He played throughout high school and considered joining the Wolfpack football team as a walkon, just as fellow thrower Grant Pearce did a few years ago. But the time commitment was large and Williams didn’t want to jeopardize his track scholarship.
Instead, since his arrival from West Carteret High School, he’s concentrated on his books and on throwing the discus. He hopes to soothe the nerves that hindered him last year with his typical routine that includes three deep breaths and one of a dozen or so gospel rap songs shuffling in his head. Competition in the men’s discus begins Thursday at 1 p.m.
“I just need something to help slow me down, to make sure I use my proper technique and do what I need to do,” Williams said.
When that happens, he doesn’t even realize just how far he can throw the discus. At the Raleigh Relays at NC State’s Paul Derr Track back in March, Williams felt at home and comfortable. When he let fly his best throw of his career, didn’t think it was all that great. It wiggled and wobbled for a while, but kept on going.
“I had no idea it would go [almost 190 feet],” he said. “I was still marveling at the guy before me who threw it . It was a pretty big surprise.”
Williams went on to earn All-ACC honors with a second-place finish at the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Charlottesville, Va., with a throw of more than 178 feet. He then approached his personal best with a 183-feet, 7-inch throw at the Wolfpack Last Chance Qualifier at Derr Track.
“I guess I definitely like throwing at home,” Williams said. “I just need to have a good mark on the road this weekend.”
It hasn’t really mattered where or what Taylor has thrown this season. She’s excelled in both the discus and the shot put, qualifying for both events at the regional meet.
A week after missing out on All-ACC honors at the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the native of Henderson, N.C., won two events at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia. She nearly clipped teammate Lawanda Henry’s school record in the shot put with a throw of 53-feet, 11.25-inches to win the college flight on the first day of competition at the nation’s oldest and most prestigious meet. Then, on the second day, she shattered teammate Brittany Hampton’s school record with her mark of 175-feet, 1-inch to win the championship flight of the women’s discus.
“It was all a blur,” said Taylor, whose mark in the discus is the 11th best among the 48 competitors this weekend. “I’ve been getting better at the discus all year, but I can’t believe I’m even throwing the shot put, let alone throwing it far.”
Last year, competing in several meets as an unattached participant, Taylor barely exceeded 43 feet in the shot put. She twice won events in the discus, with a best mark of more than 162 feet. She begins competition on Friday at 3 p.m.
For Taylor, throwing was never her athletic dream. She had hoped to play college basketball or volleyball, two sports she excelled in during her middle school and high school careers. She only took up track because she thought it might help her win her middle school athlete of the year award.
But she won three North Carolina High School Athletics Association 2A championships in the discus and broke two school records while at Southern Vance High School, even after torn knee ligaments during her junior year ended her college basketball and volleyball aspirations.
“It ended up that track was all I had,” Taylor said. “I devoted all my time to track and ended up breaking the state 2A record. I just used all the things I learned in other sports and applied it to track, to be competitive, to work hard in practice, to put in extra time.”
In addition to the instruction she has received from throwing coach Tom Wood, Taylor has drawn inspiration from both Henry and Hampton, who have both won All-ACC honors, broken school records and qualified for the NCAA Regional preliminaries during their careers.
“We are kind of a feisty bunch,” Taylor said. “They push me a lot and I think I push them. It makes us all better. They tell me to keep pushing them even harder. They want to go out with a bang.
“We all do.”