On Tuesday afternoon, Conrad Woolsey was en route to the 2004 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Sacramento, Calif., when he found out he was eligible to compete.
“I was really excited, but at the same time I never thought they wouldn’t let me throw,” Woolsey said.
Woolsey is seeded last of the 24 competing in the shot put. Rick McGuire, MU’s track and field coach, said Woolsey might go into the Trials 24th, but he won’t finish there.
Woolsey said that this year he has nearly beaten “head-on” 10 of the competitors. Woolsey finished eighth at the 2004 NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. He then sprained his left ankle at the NCAA Regional Championships in Baton Rouge, La., but went on to place seventh at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas.
Woolsey said he thought his performance at the NCAA Outdoor meet impeded his chances to compete in the Trials. McGuire said Woolsey then traveled around competing independently in shot put events hoping to better his chances. Woolsey said he knows he should have taken that time to rest before the Trials.
This season was the first Woolsey has been healthy since he began college. McGuire said Woolsey used this healthy season and won everything he could, even when his medical file is eight inches thick.
“What you’ve got here is a kid with the best survival instincts,” McGuire said.
Woolsey has had seven surgeries.
The first three months after Woolsey transferred from Northwest Missouri State to MU he was not allowed to throw because of doctor’s orders.
“I just never really reached my potential,” Woolsey said. “If I stay healthy I know I can do better.”
In high school, Woolsey participated in football, baseball, track and wrestling, and he said he never had any injuries. Woolsey said by the time he got to college, his body had probably been overused.
Woolsey has been granted a medical waiver to give him his sixth year of eligibility.
“I just finished my master’s (degree in health/sports psychology), and now I will be one of the only athletes out there working on my Ph.D.,” Woolsey said.
Brett Halter, MU’s throwing coach, said Woolsey is as dedicated in the classroom as he is to his shot put training. Woolsey said that Halter would not let him do anything risky while training.
“Our training has allowed him to stay healthy,” Halter said. “His training is a lot different than what he has been used to. It is challenging as a coach, but fun at the same time because of the challenge.”
Halter said that it takes a certain finesse to train Woolsey. Woolsey can jump up on a table, but he can’t jump down because his knees couldn’t take the impact.
“If he goes and throws beyond himself, he’ll be in trouble,” Halter said. “If he just goes out and does Conrad, he’ll do great, and that’s what I expect him to do.”
Woolsey will compete in the Trials’ preliminary rounds with a sprained ankle that does not let his foot turn like he needs it.
“It is basically where it hurts, but when there is a crowd, the energy, and the adrenaline in a competition I can throw on it,” Woolsey said. “Without the adrenaline it is hard to do it, which makes practicing difficult.”