Whether it was in elementary, middle or high school, at some
point, almost everyone has had to run the dreaded mile. It is why
most people can easily comprehend the significance of Michigan
junior Nate Brannen running a 3:58 mile. It may also be why much
attention at a track and field meet is focused on running events.
The athletes who seemingly defy physics with the exact sciences of
the high jump, long jump, shot put and weight throw appear to take
a back seat to the runners.

Beth Dykstra
Nick Vander Ploeg has to incorporate both explosiveness and finesse into every throw. (SETH LOWER/Daily)

For the long jump, while pure speed is important, it takes much
more to truly stand out. Consider redshirt freshman Jason Stewart.
A Michigan high school state champion in the 400-meter run, Stewert
clearly has the necessary speed. But more experienced jumpers, such
as senior Joe Baldwin and junior David Malonson, are able to jump
precious inches further. This is because of the extra time they
have spent developing the finer points of their jumps. According to
Michigan assistant coach Ricky Deligny, the hardest part of jumping
is converting horizontal speed into vertical movement.

“You’ve got to be explosive, and even so, it takes a
high degree of kinesthetic awareness,” Deligny said.
“You need to be able to control, know where your body is in
terms of the ground.”

This kind of awareness comes with experience, and Deligny is
confident that younger jumpers like Stewart will develop this in
time.

High jumpers face the same obstacles.

Junior high jumper Braylon Edwards is known all over the country
for his leaping ability, shiftiness and blazing speed on the
football field. But, even Edwards has had trouble with the finer
points of jumping.

“(Edwards) gets a little frustrated.” Deligny said.
“He has that speed, he can get off the ground and he is
explosive. But now you’re asking him to jump, to turn his
back to the bar, and now he doesn’t see. He is accustomed to
seeing that ball coming towards him, so that throws him off a
little bit.”

But Edwards is always working hard to improve.

“(Edwards) really is very easy to work with,”
Deligny said. “He is very much a team guy when he is here. He
loves track.”

Throwing events can be misunderstood. Most people think that
because throwers are generally big-bodied, they are slow and
graceless. But Michigan throwers, such as freshman Chris McHugh and
senior Nick Vander Ploeg, are far from that.

“Any strong, powerful, explosive thrower would be a match
for a sprinter,” Deligny said. “He’d be right
there with them for the first few strides, because he is explosive
and quick, but after that he has to carry that chunk of meat
around, and it becomes more of a difficult thing.”

Explosiveness is necessary to get off a good throw, but a
certain amount of gracefulness is also necessary.

“You’ve got to have strength, but also a certain
degree of finesse,” Deligny said. “It’s like one
of those strong man contests, mixed with basketball.”

Deligny likened a good thrower to a dancer, as both have to
perform many elaborate pivots and spins. Needless to say, there is
a lot more to throws than pure strength.

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