Photo by Ted Plunkett
Thanks to YouTube, Woodbridge junior Isaiah Simmons has taught himself to become the state's best shot put thrower and potentially one of the best all-time in state history. Simmons had an incredible series of throws at the indoor state championships this year in Hampton with three throws over 60 feet including a 63'3" best despite missing valuable practice time and meets during the winter due to the snow storms. With the warmer weather which accompanies the outdoor season, Simmons has been able to get out to throw more often including two recent 62+ foot performances in three days this past week at the Prince William County Championships at Gar-Field High School and Wildcat Invitational at Mountain View High School. With his attention completely now on track & field after a scare from a serious injury during the football season, Simmons has three full seasons to challenge Dan Krueger's state record of 68'5.50" which has stood the test of time since 1978.
Interview with Isaiah Simmons
MileStat.com: This has been a big week for you with a 62'2.50" performance on Thursday and 62'11" mark on Saturday. How great has this week been for you?
Isaiah Simmons: The week has definitely been great. I think the weather had to play a good role in that as well because I have a tendency to throw better when its warm out.
(Photo right by John Herzog)
MileStat.com: Does it make any impact positively or negatively in the throws competing twice in three days?
Simmons: I actually like throwing within a short span. Unlike runners we (throwers) don't need multiple days off between meets to reenergize ourselves. Its a pro because if I have a good day throwing my body is used to the technique and I can reinerate that in the next meet.
MileStat.com: The Northern Virginia area was really hit hard by the snow storms and interrupted a lot of practice time for athletes, which technical event athletes like yourself especially missed out on a lot of valuable practice time. What impact did that have on your indoor season and with the better weather in the past month, what you have been able to really work on in your preparation for the outdoor season?
Simmons: The snow really killed my training. I was lucky enough to have a meet early in the season to get a state qualifying throw in. I was pretty much trapped in the house so I had little to no training. I managed to watch videos until I grew tired and when we arrived back in school I just tried my hardest to get back into throwing shape. I felt without the snow I could have thrown about a foot or two further at the state meet.
MileStat.com: You have self taught yourself through watching online youtube videos. Explain what is you do as far as watching these videos and what do you learn from them to apply in practice and meets?
Simmons: I first look at world class throwers and just watch the video all the way through. Then I play and pause then rewind back to the beginning. Play the video and pause at a different point of the throw and rewind again. I repeat that and I may end up watching the video a good 5-10 times before I go on to another thrower. I try to pay attention the foot placement and where their torso is throughout the throw. I then record myself and compare and contrast the two.
(Photo left by Ryan Kelly)
MileStat.com: What are the trade-offs or pros and cons for you doing the spin technique versus the glide technique in the shot put?
Simmons: The negatives about the spin is that it is really easy to scratch and its hard to stay consistent. The technique is more demanding and requires a high level of athletic ability and balance. The good thing I can say about the spin is that I've been able to throw a good distance further than the glide technique.
MileStat.com: Did you start with the spin initially? When you started to use the spin did you see a big difference in your marks?
Simmons: I actually started off with the “middle school shuffle” my first year in 8th grade (laughing). I broke my middle school record with the 8lb shot, throwing 49’11”. Then my freshman year, I kept switching back and forth with the spin and glide. I threw 47’ with the glide then and had a 49’ foul with the spin but ended up only throwing 46’. Sophomore year I used the glide in indoors and threw 56’. Outdoors I spun and threw 59’. Now I’m full-time spin and so far have thrown 63’.
(Photo right by John Herzog)
MileStat.com: You are at a very small height for a thrower, especially for the shot put. Do you feel at any disadvantage because of your height or do you feel that you have some physical attributes which allow you to be even better in throws?
Simmons: I think my size is definitely a potential disadvantage. I’m only 5’10.75” and 230. Whereas you see most of the other nationally ranked throwers at about 6+ 250+. So far my height hasn’t been too much of a problem. I don’t mind being ‘short’ compared to my competition. I feel like I use my speed and technique as an advantage over them.
MileStat.com: How important is being consistent in your performances this spring, especially after failing to win the outdoor state title last spring as the heavy favorite?
Simmons: Consistency is what I have been striving for since I started throwing. I feel more comfortable going into meets. Last year at the state meet I was really nervous because I had all the pressure and weight on my shoulders and I felt I had to give everyone want they wanted to see. But now I just zone out and just go out there and try to better my PR.
(Photo left by John Herzog)
MileStat.com: You have a tendency to foul attempts with your spin technique with your marks flying out of bounds. Do you worry about this sometimes in a championship meet setting with the risk of fouling out or do you feel that once you get timid and conservative that you won't be hitting those big marks?
Simmons: The shot put I'm not so worried about anymore because most of the time they are easy fixes. But the discus is what I'm trying to work on. I'm a year behind on that than the shot put so I'm not as confident just yet. If I foul a few times in the discus, I definitely get conservative and try to hold back which results in subpar marks.
MileStat.com: How did you first involved with track & field?
Simmons: My eighth grade year, I was in the office running an errand for my teacher. The track coach asked me what I was doing in the fall and I said baseball and she bluntly told me “No you are not. You are doing track.” She had me out there running the 100, 55, 4X1, 55 meter hurdles and throwing the shot put.
(Photo left by Ted Plunkett)
MileStat.com: You play football in fall. Do you not even pick up a shot or discus to practice during that season or do you still do work on your own to stay sharp?
Simmons: When I played football I would try to get in a few throws in early summer when we were conditioning. Then when the season started I wouldn’t pick up a shot until November and the discus until March.
MileStat.com: You got seriously hurt in a football scrimmage this past August. What happened there and did that incident make you consider giving up football with the risk of injury to jeopardize your bright future clearly in the shot put for the remainder of high school and beyond?
Simmons: I was playing fullback and I took on the linebacker and then my teammate accidently blindsided me which caused my neck to whip to the side and pinched a nerve in my neck. I was temporarily paralyzed. I’ve decided to give up football and just stick with track. For my mom, it was an easy decision but for me it was like pulling out all my teeth without any novacaine. But I’m glad I made the decision.
MileStat.com: Have you given any thought of trying out the hammer or weight throw in high school in college?
Simmons: I’ve actually been training for that. I bought a hammer over the summer for $30 at the USATF Age Group Nationals in Michigan. After four days, I had to throw at the USATF Regional meet and I managed to throw 138 feet. I practice here and there and I've managed to hit a 176’ throw in practice. I’m hoping to eventually make that my primary event if my size doesn’t get me where I want to be in the shot put after college.
(Photo right by Brandon Miles)
MileStat.com: The current state record stands at 68'5.50" by Dan Krueger of Bayside from 1978 in the shot put. Do you have this record on your mind as a goal and how realistic do you feel it is to obtain it?
Simmons: That has been my goal since freshman year. I have 3 goals on my mind for this year and that is to beat Nick Vena, beat Dan Krueger's record, and receive a full-ride scholarship. I feel that it is very possible for my to get by the state or national meets. Physically and technique-wise I have so much more to do so if I can pick up my training even harder I aspire to be the best to come out of Virginia.
MileStat.com: What will it take or in what areas could you improve upon to improve 5 feet in the next year and a half to go after the record?
Simmons: I can definitely improve my speed and quickness getting across the ring. Then I can gain more explosion at the end of my throw. I’m going to have to increase my strength as well.
MileStat.com: You will be making your second trip to Penn Relays in two weeks. What was the first experience like and what are your goals for the second time around?
Simmons: I was as nervous as a vampire in a gilroy. There were so many people watching. I didn’t throw my best but overall the whole atmotsphere was great. This time around I’m coming in ranked fourth. My goal is to PR but it wouldn’t hurt if I came out with the golden watch in the end.