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The following article on the shot put was written by E. L. Farrell, track coach at the University. Coach Farrell describes the qualities which are necessary to make a successful shot putter, and also discusses the chances which Houser, the Southern California weight star, has of breaking the mark set by Hills last year and surpassing the goal of shot putters' efforts, 50 feet.
No athlete in half a century of I. C. A. A. A. A. competition has put the shot 50 feet. Perhaps we will see that magic mark surpassed for the first time tomorrow or Saturday in the Stadium when the oldest of track associations celebrates its golden anniversary.
Few people realize the long tedious job required to make the shot putter who can surpass 45 feet. The improvement beyond that stage is even more difficult, and yet the increased interest in shot putting has made it virtually an impossibility to figure in the points in the Intercollegiate championship with a drive of less than 46 feet.
The east has no Ralph Hills this year to head off the Pacific slope, but Houser of Southern California, the Olympic champion, and Gerkin of California probably will know they have been in battle before emerging from the week-end competition. Houser is a great little man. He is one of the three wonderful small men, and by small men I mean less than 190 pounds, who have made history in the I. C. A. A. A. A. shot putting competition. The others are Beattle of Columbia and B. F. Whitney of Dartmouth, whose places carried them to the crest before the war.
Houser, who was beaten for the shot putting championship last year by Ralph Hills has wonderful nervous energy and unparalleled speed. It is a pleasure to study his style. I have welcomed the opportunity to do so in his trips east during the past two years and also at the Olympic games. No "small" man has ever crossed the circle faster than Houser in my belief.
In marked contrast to Houser was Ralph Hills of Princeton who was forced to improve the association record to win the title from Houser last year, I have never seen a shot putter with a more marvelous lift than Hills. If he had had the drive and energy of Houser, I believe that he would have smashed Ralph Roset's record of 51 feet. The first man who can combine the qualities of Houser and Hills will put the shot 54 feet.
Most track enthusiasts know that shot putting is the art of overcoming gravity To do this one must combine speed, strength and weight, co-ordinating all three to gain the best possible form. When a shot putter learns his art there should be no strain. And yet I consider the shot put to be the most difficult of all field events to master thoroughly. In the hammer and discuss it is possible to gather momentum in the movements inside the seven foot circle. In the shot put the competitor operates from a dead start and must get rid of the missile in the shortest possible time.
Competition Hurts Weight Men
Another factor to consider is that competition really is a detriment to a good shot putter. In some events the athlete can do better work when the competition is keen. In running events it is an asset to be keyed up, but that does not apply to the shot put. Look back over the records and you will find that the best marks have been made when the mental strain was lacking. It does not necessarily follow that a man is a poor competitor when he fails to make his best mark in the Intercollegiate competition. The same strain which is an asset to a runner tightens up the shot putter in such a fashion that he is fighting himself. I do not know if this is clear but the tenseness works against the rhythmic movements.
Interest in shot putting among collegians is traceable, I believe, to the desire for football men to take up weight events for off-season training. It is natural that they should turn to weights and yet it is a difficult task for the big man to perfect timing and rhythm, which are all-important to the shot putter. The increase in public interest in the event is not difficult to explain. This week's competitors will toss the sixteen-pound ball from a spot within the view of thousands in the Stadium. It will require only a glance to show how far their efforts go. Large placards bearing the number of feet appear on white lime lines and present day knowledge of what constitutes a good performance means that a notable drive will get due recognition. It would be a happy coincidence if fifty feet was reached for the first time after exactly fifty years of competition and no one would begrudge the record holder the thrill that such a put would bring. All that is needed to produce a record is ideal weather.
In 49 meets the winning put has exceeded 47 feet on eight occasions, including the last four successive meets. The record has been improved 20 times in 50 years, the improvement in this event having been more gradual than in any of the original events on the program. Athletes from 15 colleges have won the event, including: Yale, 10 times; Princeton, 9; Harvard, 7; Columbia, 4; Dartmouth, 4; Penn, 2; Michigan, 2; Stanford, 2; Stevens, 2; Swarthmore, 2; California, Cornell, Lafayette, New York University, and Maine, 1 each.
If Houser breaks the record this year it will be the first time in nearly 40 years that the record will have been broken three successive years, and probably will mark the first time in any meet that 49 has been broken by the shot-put winner for that many years.
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