When Al Quintero steps into the cage to loss the 35 lb. weight, it's hard to take him seriously, his 6-ft., 4-in., 188 lb. frame is better suited for the high jump or for running. In the weight throw, most of his opponents are at least 20 or 30 pounds heavier. Yet as soon as Quintero lets go of the ball, he makes it clear that he's no joke.
With his very first loss this year , a 57 ft., 4-in. throw--the Mather House senior set a personal record and qualified for the IC4AS. And just last Saturday, Quintero improved on that by 14-and-a-half inches.
Without size or strength, he must depend on skill to defeat his hellfire competition. "For someone strong it's easy to muscle it out there," Quintero explains. "But since I'm weaker than most of the throwers, I rely on technique."
Neither the technique nor the success have come easily for Quintero. He only began throwing the weight and its outdoor counter part, the hammer, his sophomore year. He joined the track team as a javelin thrower, but found little success in that event.
"I wasn't too good a javelin thrower in high school, and my freshman year here I was pretty mediocre, I just kept doing it because track was a good break from studies."
One day Quintero noticed Tom Lanz and Colin Ball two of Harvard's all time best hammer throwers--doing their thing, and he became intrigued.
"I saw Colin throw the hammer, and it was beautiful. He was a small guy, but his technique was so perfect he made it look effortless."
So the summer before his sophomore year, Quintero bought a hammer and taught himself how to throw. When he came back to Cambridge he continued to work at it under coach Ed Stowell's guidance. With Lens graduated and Ball injured, his new found talent was put to use that winter. He had an excellent rookie season, throwing the weight about 50 feet and even winning a meet.
But then last year he injured his knee and hurt his back litting weights.
"I threw about three feet farther last year than I had the previous one, but it was very painful, and hurt to throw during both the indoor and outdoor season."
He took it easy last summer and let his body heal. This fall, under Stowell's careful guidance, he has been training more efficiently, concentrating on improving his technique. His improved health and his new training program contributed to this year's success.
If Quintero's progress continues, he could throw the lead ball more than 61 ft., 10 in. and qualify for the NCAA championship. One encouraging sign is that he threw past 60 feet in warm up against Brown.
Despite all his success this year, there is still one critic who remains unconvinced. "McCurdy [last year's head coach] still thinks I'm too scrawny to throw."