A Shot at the Top

"Mom, I went to sign up for softball and changed my mind a little. I'm doing the Shot Put."

So began the track & field career of Center HS thrower, current PA leader and US#2 Allyn Laughlin. An elite athlete who played infield and outfield in softball, and a goalie on both Olympic-development and Club soccer teams for years, it was a middle school sports signup day that got her to change her sport, and that sport has changed her life.

But Laughlin is just one of a group of top throwers among the PA girls this year. There are seven ranked nationally. To even get on the list (Dyestat Elite), you have to throw over 40'. Joining Laughlin and her 47-06.50 at the PTFCA Indoor State Championships will be Penncrest sophomore and defending state champ Karen Shump (46-05.25), Hempfield (7) senior Samantha Fetter (45-02.00), Union City senior Natalie Clickett (42-00.50), Kane senior Heather Hess (42-00.50), Coatesville sophomore Kaleena Gray (40-07.75), and Hempfield (7) sophomore Kim Kanala (40-06.75). Nipping at their heels are no fewer than nine athletes who have all thrown in the 37's or 38's.

Center senior Allyn Laughlin,
the defending outdoor AA champ.

For those keeping track, the top three, Laughlin, Shump, and Fetter are US#2, #4 and #6, respectively.

So what's different this year?

Well, the Shot Put has always been strong in Pennsylvania. In fact, East Juniata's Heather Colyer set what was then the US Indoor Record with a throw of 52-05.75 in 1997. Colyer threw 53-03 the next spring to hold that PA record as well. Fetter has a theory... "We have the best coaches around this area for the shot."

But competition also has a lot to do with it. For much of the season, Shump was throwing in the DVGTCA meets in southeast PA, and with her throws consistently in the 40's, with a best of 44-11.50 on December 2nd, she kept winning from meet to meet as she worked on technique. On February 11th though, Laughlin came east for the PTFCA Track Carnival at Lehigh, and the Shot really took off. By the time the dust settled, and they had gone back and forth in the lead, Laughlin finished with a PR and then US#1 of 46-11.75, with Shump at a then US#3 of 46-05, an indoor PR.

2/11 PTFCA Track Carnival @ Lehigh University

LAUGHLIN: 44' 1/2", 44' 8 1/4", 44'6"
SHUMP: 42'5", 42'7 3/4", 43'7 1/4")

Laughlin had a lead of over a foot, and threw last. The progression of throws in the finals was as good as it gets in a head-to-head of this level.

SHUMP: 45'3 1/4" - LAUGHLIN: 45'1 1/4"
SHUMP: 45'2 3/4" - LAUGHLIN: 45'9"
SHUMP: 46' 5 1/4" - LAUGHLIN: 46'11 3/4"

Born to throw. But only after being discovered, recruited, cajoled...

So where do these great throwers come from? Well, it was Beaver County Track Club coach Mike Heiser who spotted Laughlin in 7th grade at the middle school sports signup. "You have to get them interested in track before other sports." To keep the Beaver County athletes involved, he runs a winter program through the county YMCA. They meet four nights a week, running two and doing agility, plyometrics and lifting the other two.

Heiser says that even though Laughlin, like Shump in AAA, has a state title (her's was in AA in the 2005 PIAA Outdoor championships), "this is the first year she has lifted really hard. It's really making a difference with her explosiveness."

Laughlin says the Shot Put kind of grew on her. It had taken from that 7th grade sports signup when she heard the words..."no, you're a thrower," to her current status as a Division I prospect. Through high school, she eventually dropped the Olympic Development soccer and picked up winter track. Then she dropped club soccer and picked up summer track. And finally this year, she didn't play soccer on her high school team. The transition was complete, and the results are showing. She has had official visits to UTEP, Tennessee, New Mexico State and throwing power Florida State. She has a trip planned for Texas State, and has made an unofficial visit to Georgia Tech.

Penncrest sophomore Karen Shump,
the defending indoor and outdoor state champ.

Shump comes from a throwing family. Her brothers were throwers. But like Laughlin and Fetter, she is an all-around athlete. In fact, while she was winning her 2nd state championship in the AAA Shot Put at 2005 Outdoor States, she was back-and-forth to compete as a top pitcher for the Penncrest softball team which was involved in the state playoffs. While both Laughlin and Fetter have all-time PR's this season, indoor or outdoor, Shump has the best PR of the three, a 48-00.25 she tossed at her league meet in 2005. That mark or beyond happens to be the indoor goal for all three girls.

The state meet record is just over 49'. A record may fall.

From his perspective, Hempfield coach Dave Murray sees that as realistic for all three athletes. "It's an exceptional year. One will get close to 50. I'm just not sure which one." Murray is also impressed with Shump. Unlike her two taller competitors, Laughlin and Fetter. "For being so small, she can really put it out there. She has very good technique."

Fetter got into the sport through friends. In fact, she was the trainer for the throwers in 7th grade. Someone along the way handed her a shot, and she out-threw the best on the team. A boy. She threw in a couple of meets in 8th grade, and then got fully involved in 9th.

Fetter doesn't have to go very far for good competition. All she has to do is go to practice. Part of this great year is the group of exceptional sophomores who include Shump, Gray, West Chester East's Alanna Owens, Neshaminy's Gabriella Rinehart, and Central Dauphin's Anna Muzio... along with Fetter's teammate, Kim Kanala. "I push her in the weight room. I work with her on technique. I never really had someone (on my team) push me."

Fetter was 6th indoor last year, and 2nd to Shump in AAA Outdoor. "I was disappointed. I want to take 1st at States. I know I have the potential."

Hempfield (7) senior Samantha Fetter.

Fetter had a slight detour on her way to her recent PR. In early December she was involved in a car accident and had stitches in her legs. She missed two weeks. Then, in early January she missed a little more time when she got sick. She wanted to keep going both times, but her coach wanted her to back off. "So we compromised."

Her confidence is high entering the state meet. "Every year I have peaked at the right time. I trust the coach. And this year, we have been killing it in the weight room." Fetter has made a verbal commitment to Division I Marshall University in West Virginia.

For her part, sophomore Shump has now become a seasoned veteran. A two-time state champ who has competed at both indoor (7th 2005) and outdoor (5th 2005) nationals, Shump is ready for the competition and the pressure of being the defending champ. "I just try to keep a level head, stay warm and concentrate on what I need to do, concentrate on my technique, and the little things I need to do."

She is not surprised by the depth of this year's class of throwers. "It comes with competition when you raise the bar. It gets your adrenaline up and gets you to push yourself. I think I am ahead of where I was last year, but as a freshman, I didn't know who the competition was and what I should be throwing."

She knows now. And on Saturday at Penn State, Shump says it could be "something special."

The head-to-head from 2005

2005 Indoor Girls Shot Put
State Meet: 49-01.50 2/21/1998 Heather Colyer, East Juniata
Name Year School Finals Points
1 Shump, Karen Penncrest 45-04.75 10
2 Eisenhauer, Becky Cedar Crest 43-07.25 8
3 Gray, Kaleena Coatesville 40-00.50 6
4 Gray, Tayvon Coatesville J40-00.50 5
5 Backel, Amy Northern 39-11.75 4
6 Fetter, Samantha Hempfield Area ( 39-10.00 3
7 Flagg, Brianna Harrisburg 39-07.00 2
8 Hess, Heather Kane 39-06.75 1
9 Clickett, Natalie Union City 38-05.75
10 Lynch, Leslie Central Dauphin 38-04.25
11 Owens, Alanna East (Westcheste 37-09.50
12 Hambrick, Jade North Allegheny 37-03.00
13 Veney, Jordan Baldwin 37-01.25
14 Johnson, Katie Interboro 37-00.25
15 Thornton, Tiffany Bishop McDevitt 36-06.00

2005 Outdoor Girls Shot Put AAA
NFHS Record: ! 54-10.75 2003 Michelle Carter, Red Oak HS, TX
PIAA Record: R 50-01.25 1980 Elaine Sobansky, Trinity HS 7
NFHS Hnr Rol: # 44-00
Name Year School Seed Finals Points
1 414 Shump, Karen 9 Penncrest HS 43-06.50 44-05.00# 10
2 252 Fetter, Samantha 11 Hempfi 43-10.75 42-08.75 8

2005 Outdoor Girls Shot Put AA
NFHS Record: ! 54-10.75 2003 Michelle Carter, Red Oak HS, TX
PIAA Record: R 47-03.50 1998 Heather Coyler, EastJuniataHS 3
NFHS Hnr Rol: # 44-00
Name Year School Seed Finals Points
1 100 Laughlin, Allyn 11 Center 42-08.00 43-05.50 10
2 580 Clickett, Natalie 11 Union City A 41-06.00 40-04.75 8
3 273 Hess, Heather 11 Kane 38-05.00 40-02.50 6

2006 Indoor State List as of February 21, 2006

1. 47-06.50 Laughlin, Allyn PA Center 2006 2/18/2006 TSTCA Indoor Championships
2. 46-05.25 Shump, Karen PA Penncrest 2008 2/11/2006 PTFCA Indoor Track Carnival
3. 45-02.00 Fetter, Samantha PA Hempfield Area 2006 2/18/2006 TSTCA Indoor Championships
4. 42-00.50 Clickett, Natalie PA Union City Area 2006 2/3/2006 Slippery Rock HS Inv #2
5. 42-00.50 Hess, Heather PA Kane Area 2006 2/3/2006 Slippery Rock HS Inv #2
6. 40-07.75 Gray, Kaleena PA Coatesville 2008 1/21/2006 11th New Balance Games
7. 40-06.75 Kanala, Kim PA Hempfield Area 2008 1/11/2006 TSTCA Indoor Meet #2
8. 38-08.00 Owens, Alanna PA East HS (West Chester) 2008 12/23/2005 DVGTCA Indoor Meet #4
9. 38-07.25 Moses, Vanita PA Neshaminy 2007 2/4/2006 DVGTCA Indoor Meet #9
10. 38-03.00 Hambrick, Jade PA North Allegheny 2007 2/18/2006 TSTCA Indoor Championships
11. 38-01.50 Guldin, Lindsey PA North Schuylkill 2007 1/6/2006 Emrey/ESU Warrior Classic
12. 38-00.00 Goetter, Krysten PA Hatboro Horsham 2006 2/17/2006 DVGTCA Meet of Champions
13. 37-09.50 Williams, Jackqulain PA Milton Hershey 2006 2/4/2006 Gill Athletics Invitational
14. 37-09.00 Tack, Jess PA Hershey 2006 1/21/2006 Maroon and Gold Invitational
15. 37-07.00 Rinehart, Gabriella PA Neshaminy 2008 12/30/2005 Robert J. Burdette Indoor Classi
16. 37-03.00 Muzio, Anna PA Central Dauphin 2008 1/21/2006 Maroon and Gold Invitational