*CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story misstated the timing of Peoples' two recent shot put victories and school records. The error was on the part of the newsroom, not Ilhyung Lee.
Ilhyung Lee is an MU professor of law. (He is not related to Coach Krishna Lee of the Missouri track and field team.)
Kearsten Peoples of the MU track and field team first began competing in the shot put and discus when she was in the seventh grade. A native of Ottawa, Kan., about an hour southwest of Kansas City, she added the weight throw and the hammer throw as a freshman at MU.
For the less acquainted, each of the four pieces — or “implements,” as they are called in the trade — is weighted. For the women, the shot put and hammer weigh almost nine pounds each, the discus is just over two pounds and the weight, the heaviest of them all, is 20 pounds. The shot put and weight throw are events for the indoor season; the outdoor season offers the shot put, discus and the hammer throw.
The simple part of the sport is that the athlete who throws the implement the farthest wins. The more complex part is what occurs before the release, which entails a combination of form, muscular strength,and fine technique. The entire body is used.
For the weight throw, the thrower first puts the piece in motion, then twirls it over her head, and then will rotate her body for two or three full revolutions (building momentum and power) before launching the piece into the air. At that point, some throwers can be heard letting out a yell or grunt. It is similar to a ki-ya in the martial arts.
Of the four events, Kearsten tends to favor what she is doing well in at any given time. “It’s nice to have two or three different events to toss around, just in case I am having a downward slope with one of them,” she said.
Currently in her junior year of intercollegiate competition, Kearsten has already enjoyed quite a career. As a redshirt freshman, she was the Big 12 Champion in the discus, and an All-American in the discus and outdoor shot put. The following year, she claimed the SEC conference championship and All-American honors in the outdoor shot put.
*The 2014 season to date has been one of top finishes and school records. Earlier this month, Kearsten won the shot put event at the prestigious Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York City, breaking her own school record. Eight days later, on February 15, at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas, she repeated the dual feat: a first place finish and a new school record, which currently stands at 57 feet, 5½ inches.
Does Kearsten Peoples hold all of Missouri’s records in her events? “Not yet,” said assistant coach Krishna Lee, herself a former All-American at Missouri, who still has the record for the hammer throw.
For now, Kearsten is a college student, and focused on the current season. She is majoring in human development and family studies, which brings her in close contact with infants and toddlers at the MU Child Development Laboratory. After graduation, “There will be a year break, and then I’ll train to go to the [2016 U.S.] Olympic Trials.” For the 2012 London Olympics, she fell just short of making the U.S. team in the shot put, by five inches. Coach Lee likes Kearsten’s chances for the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: “She’s the right kind of person to be successful. She sure has the talent. Great work ethic.”
The final indoor home meet for this season is the Missouri Collegiate Challenge on Friday, February 21, at the Hearnes field house. The following week, Kearsten and her Tiger teammates will head to College Station, Texas for the SEC indoor championship.
For the record, Kearsten prefers three revolutions for the weight throw. She does not usually let out a yell.
This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.