FEATURE: McCartney finds best form in time for final state meet appearance

There is nothing quite like the big stage at the PIAA track and field championships. Some athletes are consumed by it and some athletes consume it.

Put two-time defending AAA hot put gold medalist in the later category.

"Courtney has this inner ability to call up special things in big occasions," said Selinsgrove volunteer throws coach Troy Hess. "She wants to be her best in big moments and she can find a way to get there."

McCartney came to Hess when her brother Tyler, another thrower who medaled at states, was a senior.

"Her brother threw and he trained with me," said the Seals assistant. "She saw that he did well - fifth in shot, fifth in discus.

"At the end of eighth grade she said, 'Will you train me?'

"And I said, 'What do you want of the sport?

"And she said, I' want to be really good. I want to be a state champion. '

"I told her it's a lot of work and a lot of luck. And she said, "' know how hard my brother trained, whatever he did I can do too.'"

Words that endear athletes to their coaches.

"When you have a girl come to you and say will you help me and they want it that bad - you don't care about talent, you want kids that will apply themselves."

Of course in McCartney he got both.

"She doesn't just have the will, she has the gift."

Year-round training happens in Hess' basement. A throwing circle was built at Hess' place of business.

And then there's the film - old-school thrower Ulf Timmerman who McCartney models herself after in the shot and Becky Breisch, Wolfgang Schmidt and Mack Wilkens in the discus.

It was important in March when an injuring affecting her right foot sidelined her from practice.

"I would watch videos," said McCartney. "I think about their throws and what their form looks like and what mine looks like.

"I was focusing on getting back."

That happened with a vengeance as the Arizona State-bound thrower hit PRs in the shot (49-5.75) and discus (141-8).

"She's a very explosive thrower especially in shot put when she gets to the front," said Hess. "She's one of the most explosive girls that you'll ever see.

"A lot of that is God-given and a lot she has worked extremely hard for."

Besides the obvious training Hess has emphasized the mental aspect of the sport.

"With Courtney her foundation when she throws is her training," said the coach. "When she's nervous or not feeling that well she goes back to training."

Exacting training. If something doesn't go right, it's repeated three times the correct way.

"When the pressure is one it's what you've training your subconscious mind to do," said Hess.

Which mean this weekend McCartney won't be going over the details before she throws.

"I think about it throwing hard and going out after every throw," she said. "My technique is in the back of my head but at that moment I'm just going out to throw."

And while the 1980 shot put state record (50-1.25) might be attainable Friday morning, McCartney isn't really thinking about it.

"It's important to me, but I go out to throw as far as possible," she said. " I don't look at records."

"We truly believe if you do the best you can, good things will happen to you," said Hess.