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GHS shot-putter works away vacation

Friday, July 13, 2007

Caitlin Gannaway makes her final throw in preparation for Sunday's Junior Olympic regional competition.
Caitlin Gannaway has not had what anyone would describe as an ordinary summer for a 16-year-old girl. Sure she's spent plenty of time hanging out next to the pool, but that's only natural for a lifeguard.

Besides working at the pool, she's had some time to hang out with her friends. On Tuesday night, she and some of her friends waited in line to see a midnight screening of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." However, the difference came the next morning. After getting home from the film at 3 a.m., she had to be back up again early to practice shot put with Coach Bob Whitlow.

"She's not had any summer," said Whitlow. "When the rest of them are hanging out around the pool, she's out here throwing."

No, Gannaway is not just out trying to get a head start on her junior track season: she will be competing Sunday in Chicago at the USATF Region 7 Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships.

Gannaway qualified for the regional competition by placing second at last month's Indiana Championship at Ben Davis High School. She lost only to Samantha Gable, who placed fourth in the state at this year's IHSAA state finals.

The thrower's accomplishment is even more impressive in that she is one of the youngest people at her level of competition. Her birthday falls two weeks before the cut off, so she has to compete with 17- and 18-year-olds.

Early in the summer, Gannaway actually did have a few weeks off from practice. After the end of her school season, she only practiced three times leading up to last month's competition. Her throw of 34 feet 7 inches was good enough to place second, but was six feet off the first-place throw. Gannaway feels more prepared going into Sunday.

"I feel better than I did going into the last meet," Gannaway said.

Whitlow is also extremely confident and has bigger goals for his thrower, even in a tough field.

"It's not easy where she going," the coach said. However, he added, "If she gets third or better in this group, she'll be able to go to California."

Walnut, Ca., is the site of the national championships, the next level after this competition. Whiltow said she would likely need to throw 38 or 39 feet to advance. He doesn't consider that out of the question.

"She's thrown 38 feet several times," he said.

At Thursday's practice, Gannaway was pretty sore. Although she had not thrown on Wednesday, she had hit the weight room hard. She was still feeling the effects.

"I like that she's a little sore from yesterday," Whitlow said.

The technique he has Gannaway working on is one that emphasizes leg strength, so the weight room work and the throwing are essential.

"It's a matter of getting stronger and getting better technique," Whitlow said.

With that in mind, Thursday's practice was divided between throwing and lifting. The coach feels Gannaway is improving her technique all the time.

"It's hard to do, but she's doing well," he said. "It's a hard technique to master, but once she does, she'll be throwing far."

After the hard work of Thursday's practice came a couple of days of rest leading up to competition. Besides the break from practice, this also means staying home -- not the ideal for a teenage girl.

"My parents are making me stay in so I'm nice and rested for Sunday," Gannaway said.

Regardless of whether Gannaway advances Sunday, she will get no rest. She is also on the GHS soccer team, which begins camp Monday morning. But she doesn't mind her busy schedule or the morning practices she sometime has.

"Sometimes it's tough getting up, but I really don't mind. I like being busy," she said. "I've had free time, just not as much as some people."

After soccer, it will be straight into the swimming season, another sport at which Gannaway has excelled. She was the breaststroker on the Tiger Cubs' medley relay team that advanced to state last year.

"Swimming is my favorite sport, but I'm actually better at this one," Gannaway said.

Through it all, track season will be approaching. Whitlow has plans for training throughout the year, all in hopes of an even better year in 2008.

"He's always talking about next year," Gannaway said. This goes along with GHS head track coach Garry Anderson's common theme. Gannaway said Anderson is always talking about "10 percent more."

The thrower hope for at least that.

Her own goals include breaking the school record (she was a foot away this year) and reaching a much higher level in the tournament.

"I would really like to go to state, but our regional is very tough," she said.

Even this fact, though, she could see as a positive: "It's better to say I've competed against the best."

For his part, Whitlow is happy to work with a good kid and hard worker. He lives in Bloomington, but doesn't mind making the trip to work with Gannaway.

"When you get a good young lady to work with, it's worth the trip," he said.

"She's good to work with. She's always ready to work."

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