Barrie native looking to move up ladder in competitive world of university shot put
Reflected in her sunglasses, Kaitlin Brooks practises her technique at St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School in south-end Barrie. After a great rookie year at York University, the shot-putter will look to improve her game. The Barrie native placed eighth at nationals last year. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO
It may not garner the same attention as the 100-metre dash, but shot put is a track-and-field event that takes a special athlete.
For a sport whose origins came from throwing cannon balls, participating athletes realize just what they’re tossing.
The ‘shot’ is a metal ball and the ‘put’ is how it’s launched as far as possible from the seven-foot diameter box it’s released in.
The balls weigh approximately seven kilograms for men and four kgs for women.
“It is incredibly difficult. There are so many steps,” said St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School alumni Kaitlin Brooks. “You have to make sure you engage your lower body and use your hip, not just throwing upper body.”
Brooks is speaking from experience.
While a St. Peter’s Panther, she won at OFSAA for shot put and in just her first season throwing for the York University Lions, she placed eighth at the Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) championships.
Perhaps most impressive by her rookie season was that her accomplishments came in spite of ongoing injuries leading up to her final throw.
Brooks threw for 13.10 metres at CIS, a couple of metres shy of first place and about 30 centimetres short of her personal best.
With a little more coaching, Brooks is convinced that first place at CIS is attainable.
“My coach and I are breaking down every little detail to get that much further,” she said. “Now that I’m almost injury-free, I hope to make the gains.”
York University coach Adam Kovacs was a NCAA Division 1 track-and-field athlete with DePaul University in Chicago, so he understands the necessary training his athletes need in order to improve.
“The biggest thing is actually flexibility and core, if you can get those things down, you’re not going to get injured,” said Kovacs, who ensures that his athletes develop strength and conditioning.
Brooks and Kovacs share a special coach-athlete relationship. While in high school, Brooks concurrently competed with the South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field Club. Kovacs coached her during this time.
Once Brooks graduated and moved on to university, Kovacs simultaneously got a job to coach with the York Lions.
“It was great having Kaitlin, because it was an athlete I was familiar with and I knew she had a strong work ethic,” Kovacs said. “The biggest thing is that she’s always looking for more, she’s always asking what else she can do, what else she can practice.”
It’s people like Kovacs who are stewards of the sport who have made a strong impression on Brooks. The throwing community is supportive.
“When you’re competing against one another, everyone is cheering you on,” Brooks said. “The throwing community in Canada is amazing, it’s more of a family.”
In spite of the exemplary sportsmanship, shot-putters get frustrated just like the next athlete.
“At first, I was really down on myself, but I’ve found different techniques to stay positive,” Brooks said. “During the competition, you’re putting every single little bit of you into that. Afterwards, the adrenaline sort of simmers down and you’re pretty tired.”
Her mental game has helped her to thrive in shot put, but she still has room to grow.
“The biggest improvement is we’re going to do some more technical work and then we’re going to get her a little faster and a little stronger,” said Kovacs.
As Brooks refines her shot-put game, she will likely go on to steward the sport at some capacity, like Kovacs, after all it’s played a huge role in helping her overcome.
“Having a sport like shot put to come back to, helps you get through all of the mental sides of injury and the injury itself.”