Throwing Everything Into It
March 30, 2009
By Larry Watts
Aaron Studt says he could have flown back to the Twin Cities -- without a plane.
That's how high the University of Minnesota junior was off the ground after he took second place in the shot put during the recent NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas. On his final toss of the meet, Studt popped a career-best 63-6.25 to jump three places in the final standings.
"Coming into the meet, I was just hoping to make the finals and get All-America honors," he says. "My first throw of the meet was like 61 feet and that was second in my flight.
"Then they (meet officials) took all of us into another facility while the second flight competed. We couldn't watch and we had no idea of what was going on. We were in there for something like 45 minutes and it was really nerve-racking. My coach (Lynden Reder) said if he did his math right, even if all the guys in the second flight beat me, I would be in the finals. But I was still worried."
When all the competitors were brought together, Studt found out his coach was right. Then he faced another problem.
"All the adrenaline I had built up during the prelims was gone," he says. "But once I saw 8,000 people in there, it didn't take long for it to build back up. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever been through."
A 61-foot effort followed by three consecutive fouls soon found Studt standing eighth. Then he got his groove back, jumping to fifth on his fifth effort (mid-62s), and he hit his runner-up toss on his final attempt.
Under the guidance of first-year assistant Reder, a former Minnesota All-American in the weight throw, Studt believes he is ready for a breakout season, provided he steers clear of wrist and elbow problems that have haunted him in the past. He won this year's Big Ten indoor title in the shot (62-11.25) and was fourth in the weight throw (64-10.5). He's now up to a personal high of 66-11.5 feet in the weight throw.
"I started off the season with another wrist injury from all the wear and tear of weightlifting and throwing I had been doing," he says. "So coach Reder had me back off a bit. Instead of competing in every meet, I was now competing in the more highly competitive ones. I went into the Big Ten meet with all the confidence in the world and that translated into my throws.
"Coach Reder has been a big help and since Steve Plasencia has taken over as head coach this year, the attitude of the whole program has changed. We were fifth at the Big Ten indoor meet last year and we won it this year, which was a big shocker to us.
"We came in hoping to finish in the top three, but we were scoring points everywhere," he added. "One thing just led to another. Winning the indoor title by over 40 points is a real confidence-booster and our goal now is to repeat outdoors because you can't be satisfied with one title, you have to double up."
The switch to the outdoor campaign means Studt will also be competing in the discus while the hammer will replace the weight throw. He improved his best in the hammer to 189-4 last year and his tops in the discus is 163-3 from his freshman season.
But the shot put is his forte of the four weight events. He was sixth in the Big Ten outdoor meet last year and qualified for the NCAA Championships but fouled on all three attempts.
"I had an up and down season both indoors and outdoors last year," Studt says. "I had a breakthrough in the shot for a few weeks outdoors, but I wasn't able to handle that groove. But a week before the Big Ten meet, I hurt my wrist while weightlifting and was on painkillers for the meet. Then I tweaked my elbow on my second throw at the NCAA Regional and I couldn't finish, but I still managed to qualify at-large for the NCAA Championships."
The Ripon, Wis. native, who won state titles in both discus and shot put, traces his passion for the weight events back to his father, who set records in both events at his high school. He learned how to throw the discus as a sixth grader and picked up the shot a year later.
"My father was always there for me to teach me the basics and technical aspects of the events," he says. "A lot of high school throwers have the potential, but they don't really have the resources and knowledge of how to throw far. I was fortunate in that I went to a lot of clinics and camps. I was a student of the sport and wanted to learn as much as I could."
Despite his success in his home state, the University of Wisconsin didn't come calling. Studt narrowed his recruiting list to Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa State.
"The philosophy at Wisconsin is to spend the money on distance runners because they have such a prestigious cross country program," he says. "There have been several great throwers who have left the state because of that. The fact that my older brother Nick was already here at Minnesota and both my father and grandfather were Minnesota graduates also played a big role in my decision."
The transition to college competition also meant Studt would have to tackle the weight throw and hammer for the first time in his career. He estimated it took a good six to eight months before he started really understanding the techniques and feeling comfortable in those events.
"You can get away with muscling the weight throw a little more; you don't have to be as technically sound," he says. "But if you're not technically sound in the hammer, it will really let you know. I've recently developed a passion for both events and it's lit a fire under me to understand them more thoroughly."
Studt has also proved to be quite the matchmaker. His sister-in-law, Hannah, is a sophomore thrower on the Minnesota women's team.
"Hannah is from my parents' home town (Shell Lake) and my grandfather is a teacher at her high school," he says. "I had already heard a lot about her. She won the state titles in the shot and discus, took third in the 100 and was on the state championship 4x100 team.
"I met her on one of my visits and then introduced her to Nick. They got married after her senior year. It was a very quick process, but I guess when you know you know."
As for his own aspirations, Studt is currently majoring in business and marketing with a minor in coaching. Although he has yet to decide on a long-term plan, he thinks he eventually wants to get into coaching.
"I've been in track and field for a long time," he says. "It would be nice to give back a little bit."
But for now, he wants to take all he can get in his sport. The runner-up finish at the national indoor meet has given him a burning desire to prove himself at the NCAA Championships during the outdoor season.
"I know I can compete with the big boys now," he says. "Second place was beyond anything I ever thought. Now with extra training and technical work, I'm hoping to take this even farther. I can't control what the others do, I just have to bring the best I can and hope for the best result."