So much for coaching prescience – that storied ability to look at the rough and spot the potential diamond.
Sometimes the diamond needs a little help to show itself.
Zach Ames first picked up the javelin as an East Valley High School freshman. It wasn’t a match made in heaven by any stretch.
His coach took a look at him throw and told him the safest thing for all concerned would be for him to put the spear down and never, ever, pick it up again.
Ames kept it there for the most of the season, concentrating instead on the shot put and discus.
But sometimes need outweighs safety as a concern.
“We needed someone to throw the javelin because we were out of throwers,” the East Valley senior recalled. “I picked it up and, all of a sudden, I threw it straight and I qualified for state.”
After qualifying for state three straight seasons, Ames stands as the top returning javelin thrower in Class 3A going into the 2010 season. Ames’ fourth-place state throw of 188 feet, 5 inches at last year’s state track and field meet, just seven feet shy of his personal best mark of 195-5, was the top mark by an underclassmen.
“I’m happy with the way I did at state last year, especially considering that I was pretty sick when I was there,” Ames said. “I had a cold a couple days before we left and I had all kinds of stomach problems once we got there.
“All things considered, I think I threw pretty well under the circumstances. But it could have been better.”
Last year’s state javelin competition was stellar. State records fell in both Class 3A and 4A. Robert Hintz of Bellevue, the only Class 3A thrower to surpass 200 feet, set state record at 211-0.
Ames is ready to break through the 200-foot barrier himself this season.
“I’ve been throwing pretty consistently between 190 and 200 feet,” he said. “For me, it’s about my block. I need to get my leg down and planted so that I can throw against it. It would be nice to crank one throw and break through 200, but I’m more concerned with throwing consistently and repeatedly.
“I did a lot of shoulder exercises over the winter because I hurt my shoulder playing football (in the fall).”
Ames is talking to coaches about his prospects for taking his passion to a college track and field program. He watches videos of Olympic throwers to pick up tips and watches collegiate track and field meets for the same reason.
“I’ve had a couple visitations already,” he said. “And I’ve talked to some college coaches about throwing the javelin and they’ve given me some good advice. Sometimes it helps to hear things from a different coach. They may be telling you the same thing your own coach is telling you, but you hear it differently.
“The coaches I’ve talked to haven’t made up their minds on who to offer scholarships to because they still have time. They all wish me luck this season.”
Ames is ready for the pressure of the upcoming season, and the experience of having competed in three straight state meets helps.
“Sometimes the pressure can get to you,” he said. “Sometimes, in a big meet, you can try too hard and that prevents you from doing well. I like competition and I like to think that I can relax and just let it fly.”
It helps, he said, to have multiple events to work on.
To call the discus, shot and javelin “throws” is to put a simple name on a complex action. Each is broken down in minute detail, analyzed and honed in a relentless pursuit of an ever-improving personal best.
“I’ve never even been close to being perfect,” Ames said. “I think 70 to 80 percent of what I do is breaking down what I do. I try to focus on one thing at a time. If you don’t it gets too stressful and it gets to be too much.”
It’s not that the intricacies of one discipline crosses over and applies to another, he said, but the feel and adrenalin of making a good throw can be contagious.
This week, ahead of today’s Mooberry Relays at Rogers High, Ames was working on his discus during practice and adding a fourth event in his spare time.
“I’m having fun learning to throw the hammer,” he said. “It helps me to go away from the javelin and work on another event. If I do well in one, it helps me relax and do better in my other events.”
The goal this season, he said, is to reach state in all three of his varsity events.
“That would be cool,” he said. “What I especially like is that it would give me something different to concentrate on while I’m at state. I’ve been to state in one event and I’ve been there in two events. I haven’t made it in all three.”