Score one for ingenuity and fun.
In an effort to add a fan-friendly element to next month’s USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the shot put competition will be held in an intimate, unique setting rather than at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium, organizers announced Thursday.
What better place, they decided, than the grounds of the State Capitol.
The Capitol Shot on June 25 will be free and offer a backdrop of one of the region’s most picturesque venues. Fans will be able to watch from the Capitol steps and grandstands that will be erected. Shot put events have been contested in non-stadium settings before, but it will be a first for the USA championships.
John Godina, a three-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist in the shot put, joined officials from USA Track & Field, the Sacramento Sports Commission and the State Capitol to make the announcement.
“It’s think it’ll be awesome, just awesome,” Godina said. “It’ll get people hyped up. People will experience something very cool. Shot put people want track fans to watch them perform, to be close. I’ve talked to some of the great shot putters we have coming, and they’re all excited.”
Godina has fond memories of Sacramento. He won the Golden West Invitational at American River College as a Wyoming high school senior in 1990. Godina, a record-breaking shot putter at UCLA, was second at the USA championships in 1995 at Hughes Stadium, qualifying for the world championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he won the first of his three outdoor world titles. He also qualified for his second and third Olympic teams at the 2000 and 2004 Trials at Hornet Stadium.
Godina still has a local connection, with one of his World Throws Center locations in Sacramento.
Godina, 41, said he will attend the Capitol Shot – and he might warm up for old time’s sake.
“Sacramento means a lot to me, great memories,” Godina said. “It makes me happy to see what the sports commission is doing. This is a wonderful track town, and it’s a great place to have events, including this new shot put. A very cool thing.”
Sac State engineering students constructed the concrete ring that will be placed near the sidewalk along 10th street. The ring and landing area will meet specifications, meet organizers said.
Ryan Whiting, the defending U.S. champion who has a best toss of 73 feet, 11/4 inches, is favored in next month’s competition. His competition could include World 2009 outdoor champion Christian Cantwell, who has the world’s best outdoor throw this season of 71-81/4.
Michelle Carter set the women’s U.S. record of 66-5 while winning the 2013 USA championships in Iowa. Carter is the daughter of Michael Carter, who set a national high school record in the 1979 Golden West Invitational at Sac State with a toss of 81-31/2, still regarded as the one of the most incredible prep feats in history. Carter won the silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and later excelled as a defensive lineman for the 49ers, winning three Super Bowl titles with San Francisco.
“Michelle Carter is great,” Godina said, “and people will love watching her.”
In another fan-friendly event, the Sacramento Sports Commission and the Sacramento Running Association will sponsor the Billy Mills 10K on June 26 before the men’s and women’s 10,000-meter finals at Sac State. The Mills 10K marks the 50th anniversary of Mills’ gold-medal effort in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Mills toured the Sac State grounds earlier this month and was touched by the idea of a 10K run for fans.
“Track and field is about the experiences, about connecting to fans, having fun, and that’s what this is all about,” Mills said. “You want fans to enjoy the athletes, but to also be involved. I think fans will have a great time here.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.