Gateway: Sports

Size, power, mental strength: Gig Harbor’s Peacock has tools to be an elite thrower

Gig Harbor’s Samuel Peacock competes in the 3A boys shot put finals on the opening day of the state track meet at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
Gig Harbor’s Samuel Peacock competes in the 3A boys shot put finals on the opening day of the state track meet at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma on Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Samuel Peacock didn’t come out for the track and field team at Gig Harbor High School until his sophomore year, after playing baseball as a freshman.

It didn’t take him long to catch on.

In his first year throwing shot put, the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder won the West Central III/Southwest bidistrict tournament, throwing 54 feet, 1 inch, before taking fifth at the Class 3A state meet, throwing 53-4.75 in late May.

“I just really loved it and I stuck with it,” Peacock said. “I honed in on it and it just kind of became my thing. Our coaching staff is phenomenal. (Throws coach Ben Keith) can get anybody right.”

Keith said a few things have made Peacock one of the state’s best shot put throwers right out of the gate. His size might be the biggest factor.

“He’s a massive young man,” Keith said. “He’s very large. When you’re looking for very talented shot putters, they typically have long arms, long legs, good overall body coordination.”

And the best ones have a mental toughness and an innate ability to bounce back.

“They can just kind of wash the bad things,” Keith said. “He’s a really strong thinker. He’s doesn’t over-analyze too much.”

Keith has had no shortage of talented shot putters to coach the past few years. He coached three-time shot put state champion Hadassah Ward most recently, who graduated last spring.

In Peacock, Keith sees some similarities with Ward.

“They will do whatever they have to do to win,” Keith said. “The shot put is not a glamorous event. It’s raining, it’s cold, they’re holding a steel ball, it’s muddy, it’s dirty. But they both had this mentality in common — a desire to do well, and they had the athletic ability to accommodate it.”

Peacock said he was happy with his fifth place finish at state last year, and hopes to improve on that placement this season.

“That was super solid,” Peacock said. “I was really happy to even go to state, and then to place was even better. … I’d love to improve on that. Last year was learning the shot, this year it’s about improving on that. So it’s just about fixing little things and getting better in general this year.”

Keith said Peacock is further along right now, this year, compared with the same time last year.

“He’s having practices right now better than he had at all last year and it’s not even all that close,” Keith said. “He’s really tuned it, he’s comfortable. He’s got some technical things to work on and we’ll iron that out.”

Peacock said he’s still working on his “power position” and fine-tuning his technique. To Keith, it comes down to an understanding of properly utilizing the lower body.

“It’s really hard for kids to understand the lower body is the motor and the engine of the throw,” Keith said. “If we don’t utilize the muscles in the lower body, no matter how strong we are in the upper body, the upper body won’t really engage the way it should. It’s a lot about patience.”

That means a lot of redundant and tedious drills at practice — the sort of stuff coaches live for.

“We just want to continue on utilizing the lower body first,” Keith said. “He doesn’t have a lot of flaws right now. If there’s one thing we want to continue to work on, every coach wants to get them working the lower body first.”

Is a state title in the cards this year and/or next for Peacock? That’s the goal.

“I’d love to just do my job and get points for the team,” Peacock said.

But while Peacock is modest about the ambitions he harbors this spring, Keith is happy to brag about his junior.

“He can absolutely (be a state champion),” Keith said. “He has every quality, both mentally and physically. Last year, he had a good experience. He learned some lessons. I don’t know how far he will throw before he’s done with us. He could throw some incredible distances. He has things that some other throwers don’t. The sky is the limit for that kid.”