U.S. WOMEN’S HAMMER PROSPECTS were great coming into this season, what with DeAnna Price being the reigning World champion. However, big throws in a pair of early-season Midwest meets by Price and Brooke Andersen have made the event even more promising.
At the Tom Botts Invitational (Columbia, Missouri, April 09), Price added more than a foot to her own American Record with a toss of 257-10 (78.60). That big one was unlooked for, she admits. She had opened up at 237-11 (72.52) and then kept going farther: 241-0 (73.46), 250-3 (76.29) and 253-3 (77.20) for the No. 9 U.S. mark ever, before nailing the record on her fifth attempt. She closed out the day with a 247-9 (75.53). The improvement tightened Price’s hold on the No. 3 spot in world history (see chart).
The next day at Wichita State, Brooke Andersen made a big jump up the all-time world list, going from No. 14 to No. 4 with a 256-6 (78.18). She also skipped over Gwen Berry to claim status as No. 2 American ever.
After an opening foul, Andersen hit 249-2 (75.95) and another foul. Then she caught fire, churning out three marks beyond her old best of 251-9 (76.75).
In round 4 she nailed a PR 254-7 (77.61) to move to No. 7 ever. Her big throw came in the next, and she closed at 253-4 (77.23). (Continued below)
Price and Andersen now own the longest throws in the world in the last 2½ years, a period that coincides with WR holder Anita Włodarczyk’s knee troubles and resulting surgery. (Polish media have called Włodarczyk’s form “a great mystery,” noting that she started working with a new coach last year.)
Friday: DeAnna Price 257-10
DeAnna Price didn’t go into her meet with the highest of hopes, despite having a great winter of training. “My numbers have been indicating really big things,” she says.
But the Botts competition came after getting her second C19 jab. “It kind of knocked me down a little bit,” she explains. “So that week of training wasn’t the best. I was still throwing some season bests with my balls but technically I just wasn’t really happy with anything.
“I was at the point where I was like, ‘Do I go to Columbia?’ And [husband/coach J.C. Lambert] was like, ‘You need to get the meets in.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re completely right.’”
As is her habit, she wrote down on her arm the code for the three things she needed to concentrate on in the competition: “Put the ball up, pull to the line, and hold that entry.”
Throw 1 did not go well. Her disappointment showed. Then she looked to her mother among the spectators — they had not seen each other for a 6-month stretch during the pandemic — and her mother was “literally shaking her body.” More code. Explains Price, “She was telling me to just shake it off. Whatever had to happen, just throw and have fun.”
Then came round 5 and the big one. Only it didn’t feel at all like a big throw. “I turned to JC and literally said, ‘That sucked.’” He told her not to worry, because it was, “probably like 76m. It’s not a big deal.”
She asked if she should just foul it and save the officials some time. Lambert said, “Nah, it’s a good throw,” and she left the ring from the back.
“Then the measurement came up and I was like, ‘Oh my god. Oh wow.’… I didn’t even hit that big and I wasn’t even close.”
After her Doha win, she says, preparing for the Olympics was everything, “It was exciting. It was like getting ready, guns blazing kind of thing.” Then came the rest of ’20. Price found herself doing much of her training in an open field that’s adjacent to a mental health facility. Fortunately, she and Lambert had scrimped and saved and could afford to turn their garage into a gym and their spare bedroom into a therapy room.
“Without those things, there’s no way I’d be able to be successful. JC was like, ‘You know what? This is a blessing and we’re really gonna focus on technique. You have all the strength in the world.’” The two honed technique all year. “It definitely has been paying off. The biggest thing was getting back into the competitive zone. My husband would put on his throwing shoes and we would compete. He’s 4–1; he’s winning. It’s a lot of fun.”
Price, 27, adds, “It’s just really early in the season and I’m really excited. Having two American women throwing 78m in April is amazing. I don’t like putting out numbers, but I will say I can see the American Record being broken many times this year.
“I think you’re going to see some pretty crazy throwing, not only in the United States, but also internationally. Definitely people have been working on what they needed to fix and it’s definitely showing.”
Saturday: Brooke Andersen 256-6
Brooke Andersen says she was excited when she got the news of Price’s AR: “I was like, I want to hit that one day, and then a day later… I was super excited. DeAnna and I are in a race, only she still has a little bit on me. It’s great having her to motivate me. It’s nice to look up to her and follow hopefully in her footsteps.”
It had been a challenging pandemic year for Andersen. Much of her training has taken place in a public park, throwing from a sidewalk. Since the nearby community center has been turned into a vaccination center, she’s getting more spectators.
“Most people are just excited and they like to watch it while they’re waiting in line for their vaccines. There have been some people that don’t feel safe with us doing it. We just try to reassure them that we are doing all we can to practice safety while we’re throwing. But usually there’s no one there except for me, my partner and my coach.”
Andersen has been working afternoons and evenings as a cashier in a Chipotle restaurant, and training in the mornings with Nathan Ott — now the throws coach at Kansas State — who guided her when she emerged at Northern Arizona.
Practice, she says, has been going well. “During this past week of training leading up to the meet, I was feeling like I was clicking really well. My distances in practice with my heavy ball, middle ball, light ball, they were all trending really well. So we decided at the last minute that Monday to contact Wichita State to get us into the meet.
“My warmups were kind of iffy. They were OK, a couple of them, but nothing spectacular. And then I fouled my first throw [in the competition]. I hate that, because it puts so much pressure on you. But then my second one went almost 76—I was really surprised at that. I was like, ‘What the heck?!’ I was happy with that for the day, it was like, ‘Oh it’s a season best!’
“And then I kind of relaxed a little more and when I saw 77, I was like, ‘OK, maybe we’ll try a little harder.” Then came her second PR of the day, and the promotion to No. 4 all-time. “I was a little surprised that they went that far; but I wasn’t too surprised because my training the day before had been right around there for premeet. I was super-excited to finally hit it in the meet.”
Andersen says there is more to come, she hopes. “There’s a lot of things I could have done better on the throw, I feel like… I am over-critical on myself a lot. Nathan kind of balances me and he’s the optimistic one most of the time.”
Now 25, Andersen is looking forward to Tokyo and the chance to redeem herself from a bittersweet WC experience where she competed with an injured hip and didn’t make the final. “I was on the verge of getting better, and on my first warmup throw, it tweaked again. So I had a rough time in Doha.”
The takeaway is that she has gotten very serious about getting massage, going to the chiropractor, and dealing with every niggle before it becomes a problem. She says she has no regrets about Doha: “It brought me to where I am today, so I wouldn’t honestly change it.”