SACO – Dana Tripp was confronted with a certain perception of the discus, but that was shattered the first time she stepped into a thrower’s circle and attempted to heave it.

“It’s a masculine sport,” Tripp said. “In the shot (put), you can heave it, but in the discus there’s a lot of finesse. Everything you do is very athletic, and it’s about speed and body control.”

But Tripp stayed with it, and now she’s one of the eight girls on the Thornton Academy track and field team to qualify for the Class A meet Saturday in the discus — nearly one-third of a field of 25 competitors from the state’s largest schools.

It’s a notable accomplishment, considering that some schools are lucky to qualify no more than two or three athletes in an event.

At this weekend’s Class A state meet, only Edward Little, the defending Class A girls’ champion, has qualified as many athletes in one event — eight in the triple jump and 100 hurdles.

The Eddies also qualified six in the pole vault, and Brewer qualified six in the 100.

Edward Little Coach Rebecca Hefty believes the more competitors in one event, the better chances to score.

“If you don’t have that one person you know you can count on, that one individual you know who can score, you always have to worry about filling the events,” Hefty said. “But now in Class A, those fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place points are what matter the most. You can go in and win a state championship without a first place.

“If you can get as many kids as possible to qualify, you have a strength there.”

Thornton, traditionally a Class A contender, has strength in its numbers in the girls’ discus. comparison, there are 18 discus qualifiers in the boys’ Class A meet and Cheverus has three of them — Beau Michaud, John White and Thomas Yates.

“Typically, people think that only men can do this,” Abbey Huntress of Thornton said. “They think it’s heavy and the men can throw far. But when you see women doing it, it’s surprising.”

It’s a rallying point for the eight throwers, and Thornton throws coach Lisa Huntress attributes the cohesiveness to the fact there are strong leaders in the unit — Abbey Huntress, Molly Shannon and Alyssa Bourque — as well as having a sense of competitiveness in the group.

When it comes down to it, they are trying to reach personal goals as well as contribute to team goals.

“Some meets come down to the throws,” Lisa Huntress said. “We have eight throwers here who are pretty good. They could be the contributing factor.”

The Trojans’ state qualifiers were drawn to the discus for various reasons. Abbey Huntress followed her mother’s footsteps and has been throwing a discus since she was 6 years old, and her younger sister, Hannah, followed that lead. Bourque got talked into the discus by Molly Shannon, who has thrown since her freshman year and has qualified for the Class A meet in the shot put and discus.

Tripp is honest. She can’t remember how she took up the event, but said the discus requires strength, fitness, stamina and balance, as well as patience.

“It’s very technical,” Tripp said. “There’s a lot of aspects to it and a lot of it is about form. It’s like a dance.

“When you start from the beginning, we’re told, ‘Don’t force it. Control it.’ We started from the base movements. As you learn, you build upon it and add the technical aspects.”

Lisa Huntress, a former collegiate thrower in her 15th year of coaching, agrees with Tripp’s assessment.

“That’s the first misperception,” Huntress said. “We work on fitness. We work on sprinting. We work on the core, and we work on tons of things to ensure each thrower has their best performance.”

Huntress hasn’t set concrete goals for the eight throwers. Ideally, though, this weekend is when each of Thornton Academy’s discus throwers and shot putters will peak.

“My hope for Saturday is that each of them end up with a personal record,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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