Local high school track and field athletes on the Golden State Throwers will be well positioned if and when the hammer throw is allowed by the CIF. But the last time Golden State Throwers coach Mike Curry spoke with a CIF official, he was told that wouldn’t happen as long as her lungs drew breath.
Curry brought 12 hammer-throwing athletes from throughout the area to the 56th Golden West Invitational held Saturday under a blazing sun at Folsom High School. The team flooded the boys and girls finals Saturday with 12 of the 21 competitors.
Emelda Malm-Annan threw the hammer 175 feet, 9 inches for the best toss at the GWI since 2004 when Canadian Rochelle Kokayako went 178-2. Malm-Annan’s throw was the fifth best in GWI history.
“I was happy with the (175-9), but I wanted to go over 180 feet today,” said Malm-Annan, who just graduated from Elk Grove’s Monterey Trail High School and has earned a full scholarship to Wyoming to throw the hammer. “My personal record is 180-11 set a couple of weeks ago at the Sac State Invitational.”
Malm-Annan beat the Hornets’ and UC Davis hammer throwers at that meet by 11 feet and is zeroing in on the United States national youth record of 183-1 set last year at the USA Youth Track and Field Championships by Lena Giger. Malm-Annan will get the chance to set the new record in late July at the U.S. Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Jacksonville, Fla.
Malm-Annan didn’t pick up the hammer until the end of her sophomore year, when Curry spotted her at a track meet competing in the discus and shot put. He invited her to try the hammer, and on her first attempt nearly wrapped the hammer – an eight-pound iron ball tied to a metal chain – around her neck. Fast forward two years, and the two-time GWI hammer champion has secured a scholarship.
“When I mess up, I really start to push myself, and I stayed with the hammer,” Malm-Annan said. “I’ve worked hard, and I’ve reached one of my goals.”
Malm-Annan’s Golden State Throwers teammate, Elk Grove High grad Steven Tofanelli, won the boys hammer event with a throw of 203-9. That was the best mark at the GWI since 2009 when Brad Bolton of Lake Forest went 206-7. Tofanelli has earned a full ride to Eastern Washington.
“In our seven years of operation, our team has produced 16 scholarship athletes,” said Curry, who competed in the hammer for Humboldt State. “This past year, we’ve had four full rides and one team member who got an 80 percent ride. We have shot, discus and hammer throwers, but the team focuses on the hammer because that is the best way into college with a scholarship.”
Because Rhode Island is the only state that has sanctioned the hammer throw for high school athletes, collegiate track and field coaches have a dearth of talent to recruit. Athletes who want to concentrate on the hammer are forced to find a club like the Golden State Throwers to help secure a scholarship.
In other events Saturday, Vacaville sophomore Reonna Collier, running unattached, turned in impressive times in the 300-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash. Collier had the third-best 300 hurdles time in GWI history with a 41.24. The meet record is 40.81 set in 1995 by Joanna Hayes, who went on to become 2004 Olympic 100-meter hurdler gold medalist. Collier also won the 400 meters in 53.85, the best winning GWI time since 2008.
Davis High senior Nathan Harper won the boys pole vault by clearing 15-3, and Erika Malaspina won the girls pole vault at 12-111/2. That was the best mark since 2007, when Tori Anthony of Palo Alto set the meet record of 14-11/4.
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.