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The Welshman: Freshman Thrower Eyes Big Stage

Beginner's Luck
Freshman thrower Sam Welsh didn’t even begin his sport until his junior year of high school. He’s gone from rookie to among the top of the Ancient Eight in three years.
Freshman thrower Sam Welsh is no stranger to success. Coming into his collegiate career with a national title and a state record in the discus and a personal record of 59-1 in the shot put, Welsh was already one of the most decorated throwers in the country. Harvard had not boasted a thrower with this much ceiling since Nick Sweeney, an Irishman who made four straight Olympics in the discus beginning in 1992.

His success has not waned in college, competing against the best throwers in the Ancient Eight. He already has the best mark in the league in the discus and has placed first in three different meets. The most surprising thing about Welsh’s success? He had never thrown in a competition until his junior year of high school.

“I began throwing discus after my sophomore year in high school,” Welsh said. “At the time, I had decided that I no longer wanted to pursue a career in baseball or basketball so I was looking for something else to do. I went to a track practice to try my hand at throwing, not knowing anything about the sport. I launched the discus as far as I could and I was told that it would be a new school record if I could do it in a meet.”

Welsh saw that he had an uncanny talent for throwing and was motivated to try to excel at a sport he had never tried before. Had the track coach not realized Welsh’s abilities, he would not have discovered a passion that has been such as significant part of his life for the past three years.

“The following summer consisted of many hours throwing in a dirt field and watching YouTube videos to learn technique” Welsh said. “In my first meet of junior year, I threw 183’ 9” which broke that school record by over 70 feet. I eventually increased my mark to 212’ 0” which broke the all-time New England record and I won the National Championship in my senior year.”

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Welsh’s accomplishments in such a short period of time is unprecedented. One can only imagine how unbreakable his records would be had he started throwing earlier. As he started participating in more competitive meets, Welsh’s pre-meet routines matured to give him the most composure and poise before he had to throw.

“Before a big meet, I will have one practice the day before, simulating the meet as much as possible,” Welsh said. “Visualization is also very important because it allows me to ‘feel’ a lot of good throws without burning myself out. My best meets have been when I have felt really relaxed, so going into each meet I just try to have fun with it and perform the best that I am capable of.”

One of the keys to his success has been isolating his performance from everyone else’s. Rather than focusing on how his competitors are throwing, he concentrates on what he can control and his process. His mental progression is why he was able to develop from an elite thrower to the best in the country.

After having a set of stellar throws his senior year, all over 180 feet, he broke through with a mark of 202-4 in the discus at the Concord Relays his senior year. From there, he won New Balance Nationals and set the New England record in the discus with a mark of 212-0.

Once his collegiate career started, he continued his success with six different top three finishes during the indoor season. At the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, he placed seventh, an impressive finish, but not as well as he hoped. He had a mark of 52-10.5, which was well below his personal best of 59-1. To have a better result at Ivy Heps this outdoor season, he changed his training regime.

“In the indoor season, I spent a lot of time in the weight room gaining as much strength as possible,” Welsh said. “As the outdoor season progresses, I have been focusing more on technique and explosiveness. When training for an event such as discus, it is crucial to gain as much strength as possible in the offseason before turning to a focus on explosive movements during competition season. As nationals approaches, I will be going lighter in the weight room but moving faster with my exercises and through the circle.”

Concentrating on his technique and explosiveness has paid off for the Lunenburg, Mass., native. He demonstrated his prowess against Ivy League rival Yale by winning the Harvard/Yale dual meet and also competed against the best in the nation at the Texas Relays.

“It was amazing to throw against the best in the country as a freshman,” Welsh said. It’s not every day that I feel small compared to those around me but those guys were huge... The competition gave me experience throwing at a national caliber meet, which will help me for the rest of the season. I look forward to facing them again in future competitions and next time, I’ll be ready to give them a good fight.”

With over a month of the season having passed, Welsh is now gearing up for the biggest meets of the season such as Ivy Heps, NCAAs, and USA Nationals.

“My goal now is to lock in new changes to my form and ramp up my explosiveness,” Welsh said. “I also want perform as well as I can at NCAAs and hopefully qualify for USA Nationals.”

When Welsh isn’t training or doing his work, he is working on his dunk reels. The freshman thrower has an impressive array of dunks that has been noticed by multiple Instagram pages such as Dunkademics and TeamFlightBrothers.

“I’ve always loved the sport of basketball,” Welsh said. “One of my dreams was to dunk like the players I would watch on TV so I began my jump training at the age of 12. I got my first dunk by age 14 and it took off from there. I love dunking in my free time and I am always trying to get better. In addition to my Olympic goals, I hope to be a professional dunker and test the limits of my jumping ability.”

As the outdoor season concludes, be on the lookout for more record-breaking performances by Welsh and more impressive highlight dunks.

—Staff writer Mahtab Shihab can be reached at mahtab.shihab@thecrimson.com

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