A distance runner knows the feeling of floating over a track during a great race. A jumper knows how it feels to seemingly hang in the air forever on the perfect leap. And the feeling is certainly no different for a thrower.
Allison Updike had that feeling on Friday at the USATF Junior Championships at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
"I knew it was good because I didn't feel anything."
The 'anything' she didn't feel was an elbow going this way when it should go that way. No straining. No sudden, unwelcome jolts. Just smooth – from her bounding approach, to that final quick step and a great block – her final throw of the Juniors javelin competition just felt right.
"I knew it, and I looked up right away. The crowd went wild. I was pretty psyched."
Photo from USATF Juniors by Vic Sailer, PhotoRun.net
And who wouldn't be? There were two more competitors who had yet to take their last throws of the finals... but Updike's 167-2 was the best of the competition by over four feet. She held her breath, and watched as both failed to pass her.
Her 167-2 not only put her on her first world team which competes in Moncton (New Brunswick) Canada July 19-25, but it put her way up on some all-time lists. She is now tied with recent Lakeview grad Fawn Miller for the all-time best throw with the new jav in Pennsylvania. And both these talented throwers are now the #6 all-time performers in the US.
A rising senior with one more year to claim the top PA spot for herself, Updike is seasoned in the sport. She came into the competition's first round simply trying to get a mark, and then to qualify for the finals. Don't make the finals, and you don't get a chance to go for your best.
Her first throw of 150-00 would be good enough to make the finals. But if there is something that has been a trademark for Updike this season, it is her consistency. She followed her opening mark with a 149-06, and closed out the prelims with a 152-04, putting her into 3rd place entering the finals.
Her first throw of the finals – 159-11 – would give her the lead. But Nevada sophomore Avione Allgood would answer with 163-01.
Updike's second throw of the finals went 152-02. But she was still in second at the time.
Another competitor answered, as Washington junior Christine Kirkwood threw 161-4 on her penultimate effort, pushing her to third.
"I just get that first mark, and then I have nothing to lose."
Nothing to lose, and everything to gain with just one throw remaining.
What has improved this year for Updike is that the repetition of all the techniques required to excel in the event have come together, improving from event to event.
She credits Tamaqua volunteer coach John Kotchmar with the knowledge and the work that have helped not only add distance, but to bring consistency.
"We worked to get my approach more bounding. To get more speed, more accuracy in the steps," she says. "And then, of course, being quick at the end and just releasing with a relaxed hand."
On the final throw she says she backed up the runway to help avoid a foul. "I just gave it my all."
It all sounds so simple. But Undike says her off-season work with the medicine ball to build core, and session after session working on steps is what got her to this point, and beginning her season at a great level.
She had closed out 2009 with a 148-4 at the Keystone Games. She started this season at 139-9 at the Shippensburg Invite; and then continued to improve week by week, moving from a 144 at Penn and 146-8 at Mount Carmel, to over 154 for the duration of the season - the highlight of which before Friday's 167-2 was her 161-2 PIAA AA state championship.
That first time over 160 was the second of three times that Updike had 'the feeling' this season. The first time was a week after the Penn Relays, when she went over 150 for the first time with a 156-8 at the Pine Grove Invitational.
Updike would certainly like to get that feeling one more time this season. She'd absolutely like the feeling of going over 170'.
Sometimes to get 'psyched' after a throw... you really do need to feel nothing at all.