Hammer AR Setter DeAnna Price Has The Answers

Her left arm is where DeAnna Price keeps her key questions. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

DeANNA PRICE need look no farther than the inside of her left arm to remind herself why she throws. There she finds 3 questions:

Who am I doing this for?
What’s the purpose?
Why do I do this?

These are not tattoos, mind you. Before every meet and almost every practice, Price takes a Sharpie and inscribes these 3 questions on her arm. Each day she renews and reaffirms her purpose and goals. For Price, who improved her own American hammer record to 256-8 (78.24) at the USATF Championships, throwing is personal.

The “who” is her husband, J.C. Lambert, who was a senior at Southern Illinois when she was a frosh. Lambert, a former thrower himself, is now also her coach. “He is absolutely amazing and so sweet and kind and he gives 100% to me every single day,” says Price. Lambert became her mentor in the 2015–16 season, and they married last October. “It’s just been a dream come true with him.”

“The ‘purpose’ is to show that women are powerful, women are strong,” she continues. “There’s that stereotype that I bench 350lb [160kg]. I can be strong and beautiful at the same time, and for me I want to have that good balance of beauty and strength.”

Her “why” is short and to the point: “Every time I step into the ring it’s for ‘we’ and not for ‘me,’” she declares. “When I can’t answer these 3 questions, it’s time for me to retire from track & field.”

Price was caught in this year’s Pan-Am qualifying debacle. Near and dear to her heart is her 4th-place performance in ’15—her first senior international team—and she had high hopes for Lima. “I got cut,” she said through tears in Des Moines. Price wanted to return and show she had arrived. “I wanted to go back and break the record.” However, her disappointment was eased by her AR. “I will say it did light a fire under my butt!”

In an event that rewards longevity and experience, Price had also qualified for the ’15 WC when she was only 22. She won the ’15 and ’16 NCAA titles, and in Rio finished 8th behind Amber Campbell’s best-ever-by-an-American 6th. In London ’17, she finished 9th, and her NACAC and Continental Cup wins last summer were her first international titles. Now she is the No. 4 hammer performer all-time, as well as the No. 6 indoor weight thrower ever at 80-7½ (24.57), a mark she achieved in January.

Price was relieved to be competing in Des Moines after a spring that was physically challenging: “My physical therapist was holding me together with duct tape and wires!” After calmly waiting out a rain delay, Price rewrote the U.S. record books in more ways than one. Not only did she break her own AR, but her shortest throw—248-3 (75.66)—would have medaled in every World Championships and all but one Olympics.

Before Price’s historic final throw, Lambert advised her to quicken her start. Visibly faster but slightly late on the release, Price saw her hammer fly left and urged it to stay in. After the official waved it fair, Price waited for the measurement. “‘I know this is a good throw,’” she thought, “but I don’t know how good. When I saw it come up as 78.24, I just started crying because it’s been a hard year.” She doubled over under the weight of her accomplishment as the crowd burst into thunderous applause.

Two trips to Des Moines. Two consecutive U.S. titles. Two consecutive American Records. Repeat performances of the most magnificent kind: Price is poised for greatness. Now the opportunity of Doha awaits, where a medal would change her stature forever. “I’m very excited, but that’s a different day, a different time. If I can just get in there and be me, that’s the whole name of the game.”

“Going 78.24 on my last throw is a good indicator of what’s to come,” she understates of a distance that might well win WC gold. The Qatari stage is set for the strongest team in US history, as Gwen Berry and Brooke Andersen are legitimate medal contenders as well. “In Doha we’ll do what we do best,” Price exclaims. “We’ll just get in there and throw the damn thing!”

Price embraces her success: “As an athlete you have the ability and responsibility to inspire a younger generation.” While she loves to compete, she says, “What I love the most is finishing up and hugging all the kids and strangers around me. I want to pass along a part of my heart.” ◻︎