COLUMBIA —Kearsten Peoples and Jill Rushin are the two top women's shot putters in the nation.
But the Missouri teammates don't often train together.
Because of the pair’s top performances and highly competitive attitudes, Missouri coach Brett Halter said he only lets them practice with each other on certain “light” days.
“I don’t always practice them together because they’d just be beating each other up all the time,” said Halter, who is both the head coach and the throws coach. "They’re competitive enough. Our objective in practice is not to see how far we can throw in practice.”
During the past two weeks, the two Missouri juniors have posted the top two shot put throws in the entire NCAA for 2014.
Peoples’ toss on April 25 went 58 feet, 8.75-inches. Rushin's this past weekend went 57 feet, 9.75-inches. The two marks would have earned the pair of Tigers second and fourth place at last year’s NCAA Championships. Peoples’ shot put mark is the world’s 10th-best mark so far in 2014 for any age group.
And even though they strategically stay away from each other in practice, Peoples and Rushin — along with senior teammate Katie Evans — are best friends off the track, hanging out with each other most weekends.
“It’s a good support system because we’re all going through the same thing, and it’s really difficult for all of us,” Rushin said. “Other people don’t really understand what its like to lift 400 pounds.”
While they both spend plenty of time training in the weight room, Peoples is by far stronger than Rushin, able to outlift her friend by about 100 pounds in the bench press and squats.
Technique and flexibility are the areas that Rushin is able to make up for that difference.
Halter praises Rushin's “exceptional spatial awareness” while commending Peoples' “horsepower.”
Rushin demonstrated a stretch she does where she claps her hands in front of her and behind her in quick succession, a stretch that Peoples can’t do.
Evans said Rushin's flexibility is evident when watching her throw.
"Jill's definitely the technician," Evans said. "She's very fluid, very quick, very athletic when she throws."
Rushin is unbelievably athletic, Peoples intensely powerful and Evans — 59th in the nation — a mix of the two. But, they all share a love for goofiness and dancing.
Rushin said the trio is prone sing a song like Sara Bareilles’ “Brave,” on the team bus or in the streets of wherever they travel to for competition.
“That’s what we’re out hear to do is to have fun,” Halter said. “Kearsten and Jill are trying to be the best in the world, and that’s no easy task. But they can’t be so consumed by that, that they lose the fun aspect of what we do.”
Halter is working with two of the nation's top shot putters and the best shot-putters in the Southeastern Conference by a significant margin.
Peoples' and Rushin’s top marks are a full foot better than the next closest SEC competitor, LSU’s Tori Bliss. Evans, meanwhile, has the conference's eighth-best throw at 50 feet, 6.75 inches.
Evans, though, said she’s not jealous of her teammates’ success. In fact, she admires the softer side of the massive Peoples.
“What makes Kearsten really special, is she’ll do anything for you. Anything. Whenever you need it,” Evans said. “She’ll put you before herself.
A human development and family studies major, Peoples shows this softer side to little kids on a daily basis. Every day, she goes from the MU Child Development Laboratory to track practice or the weight room.
"People are always like 'You're strong enough to take care of those kids (and keep them in line),' and I just treat them like everyone else treats them," Peoples said. "Maybe they listen to me more. They could be more scared; I’m not sure.”
After her throwing career is over, Peoples plans to work with preschoolers. But that career could be a lengthy one for somebody with Olympic aspirations and abilities.
For now she said she’s worried about throwing 60 feet in the shot put, 53 meters in the hammer throw and higher than 57 meters in the discus.
“And to be a national champion,” she said at the end of her list.
This, of course, is a goal of Rushin’s as well.
The pair has proven over the past two weekends that they are each perfectly capable of attaining that goal and winning a national championship.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.