Swisley’s throws take a twist

Placer High sophomore-to-be headed to Junior Olympics in Sacramento in the hammer throw
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Nathan Swisley was short on patience this summer. Much to the surprise of his coaches, he is long on talent in an event that usually has a steep learning curve. Less than two months after first attempting the hammer throw, Swisley is headed to the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics in the event. The Placer High sophomore will compete Sunday at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium. Swisley is one of several athletes from the Sierra Foothill Track Club competing at the Junior Olympics. He’s also the most inexperienced. Swisley competed for the Placer junior varsity track and field team in the shot put and discus, but he said his results were mediocre. The same can’t be said of his performance in the hammer throw – an event that is not contested at the high school level. “He’s been really determined,” said Matt Post, who coaches the hammer throw for SFTC. “He was really dedicated at Placer during the season and he came out here and really started to pick up (the hammer). He’s worked really hard on it, watching videos on it and doing drills on his own to try and get better.” Post, who is a hammer thrower at Northern Arizona University, said it takes most athletes about a year of training to perfect intricate technique needed to excel in the event. Swisley is still raw, but he’s improved dramatically, even in the past three weeks. At the Region 14 Championships in Modesto earlier this month, Swisley’s toss of 100 feet was good for third place in the Intermediate Boys division and a qualifying spot for the Junior Olympics. Since then, Post said he’s seen Swisley toss the 12-pound lead ball upwards of 135 feet. Swisley said he immediately liked the hammer throw after getting the basic techniques down. “It’s different from the other throws,” he said. “In the others if you have enough strength, you can just go out and win – you don’t have to have technique. In the hammer you’re spinning around really fast and you have to use really good technique to have a good throw.” At 5-8, 160 pounds, Swisley has fairly average size for a sophomore in high school. But his agility and rapidly improving technique could give him an advantage over bigger, stronger kids he’ll face in competition. Sunday’s hammer throw event will see each participant take three throws. The top nine marks will gain entry into the final, where each will get another three tosses. “I’m hoping to get a medal – they give medals to the top nine,” Swisley said. “I want to be up there, but there’s going to be some really good throwers there. Next year I hope to get in the top three.” Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Swisley was a natural for the hammer throw. His older sister Brooke was a fine pitcher for the Hillgals’ softball team in 2009, using a similar twisting motion and violent release. Swisley will have a fellow Hillman rooting him on Sunday. Placer graduate Bobby Harlow qualified for the Junior Olympics in both the high jump and the javelin. Competing in the Young Men’s division, Harlow will jump today and throw the javelin on Sunday. Placer graduate Bethany Feis qualified for the Junior Olympics in the hammer throw, but is unable to compete this weekend.