By JAMIE BAKER
Van Buren’s Tyler Arbaugh has thrown in national competitions before.
And yet, when it came his turn to step in the circle to do his thing in the boys weight throw at last weekend’s New Balance Nationals in New York, he was calm, cool and collected.
He knew what he wanted to do and took care of business by finishing second in the event with a personal-record toss of 70 feet, 8 inches.
“I walked into the meet with a different mental game. I knew this meet would push me the hardest because I was more than 10 to 13 feet behind the competition. Normally, at meets here I was leading by more than that,” said the Van Buren junior, who was a Division III state qualifier in the discus last season.
“It was different, I was more nervous for the state indoor meet. I knew if I didn’t produce there, I was worried about how it would make me look.
“Last weekend I was ready to give it all in the last meet of the year and give it all out on the track.”
While Arbaugh wasn’t the favorite to win, he threw like he was. He uncorked his best throw of the day on his first attempt. And managed to mark all six of his throws.
“The fact that I figured I wasn’t going to get first in the meet pushed me a ton. Usually, I am freaking out, but I was surprisingly calm,” said Arbaugh, who competed in the hammer throw at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals last spring.
“It was my first year at nationals in the weight throw. It was a big year, I made a list of what I wanted to do. No matter what everyone else was doing, my goal was to get a mark in that would get me to finals and keep moving that mark. I was sitting second and was in a strong position and I knew I could go for it.”
His sister Ashley, who had a solid collegiate throwing career at NCAA Division III Hanover, got Arbaugh interested in throwing. He picked up the shot put and discus as an eighth grader and has thrown ever since.
Not only does he throw with Van Buren in practice during the outdoor season, Arbaugh works with a personal throwing coach as well.
“My mom was handed a card at a church event and it had the name of a personal trainer,” Arbaugh said. “We got in touch with him, and actually, my sister trained with him and we made the connection. When I met my trainer Justin Carvallo, that’s when my interest snow-balled and I started.
“We train all events with him and at school practices too, so I try and get as many reps as I can — about four hours of throwing in some days.”
While the shot put and discus are his primary events during the outdoor season at Van Buren, Arbaugh likes to focus on the weight throw, conducted indoors, and the hammer throw, which is not sanctioned by the OHSAA during the outdoor season.
In the weight throw, the implement is a lot heavier and designed to be thrown indoors. The hammer is longer and lighter, and athletes can crank it out there 200-feet or more.
“I have the Van Buren jersey on, but I’m really competing for collegiate opportunities. Because not many people do those events and at nationals, there are a lot of college coaches there,” Arbaugh said.
“I really knew I wanted to continue my career during my sophomore year when I went to some small meet in Michigan that I won. It was kind of a weird meet, we threw a short hammer, they called the whammer. That’s when I realized if I stuck with it, I could really develop myself into a pretty good thrower in those events.”
He has mixed feelings that his best and favorite event, the hammer, isn’t sanctioned for the high school outdoor season.
It can be a dangerous event if not coached and handled correctly, according to Arbaugh. And there aren’t a lot of coaches at the high school level that know much about the event.
He will get to throw the hammer in three or four meets this spring, including a competition on the Sunday after the state meet to determine Ohio’s top high school hammer throwers.
“I did pretty well in the weight throw this year, but I’m looking for even bigger things in the hammer. It’s outside and more enjoyable. You can muscle the weight out there, but you need a lot more finesse and technique in the hammer,” Arbaugh said.
“I’m 6-4 and my arms are super long, so I have good leverage. I don’t have to try as hard as someone who is say 5-10. There’s a big misconception that you have to be 600 pounds to be a thrower. If you have the technique you can win.”