In the first group of throwers Friday at Star Track XXXIV in the Class 4A shot put event, no athlete was able to clear the 40-foot mark during their practice throws; results were scattered between 30 to 39 feet.
When Gig Harbor High sophomore Haddassah Ward — a member of the second group — stepped up to take a practice throw, she cleared the 40-foot mark, surpassing all of the previous throws up to that point in the competition.
“It always helps (with my confidence) seeing my practice throws going farther,” Ward said.
It was definitely a good sign for the sophomore. The first throw established Ward’s dominance throughout the rest of the competition as she went on take home the 4A state title. Ward’s first recorded throw mirrored her practice throws, as she recorded a personal best of 44 feet, 2 inches, good for the longest of the day.
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Last year as a freshman, Ward made it all the way to the 4A state finals but finished second behind Mount Tahoma’s Ginny Mehl.
Mehl and Ward tied each other for the competition’s longest throw last year, but Mehl emerged victorious, winning in a tiebreaker because of her longer second throw. A tiebreaker was unnecessary this time around, as Ward’s first throw outdistanced those of her competitors, including Mehl.
“It feels really great,” Ward said. “Last year was really rough because my coaches have a ton of expectations for me, but when I didn’t meet them it kind of broke me down, so this year I wanted it more.”
Although Ward walked away a state champion, her final couple rounds came with a few speed bumps. Ward faulted on two occasions: Once on her second throw of the day and another in the next round. After each miscue, Ward returned to her seat positioned near a fence, and talked to her coach Ben Keith on the other side about what went wrong. Keith offered her nuggets of advice, telling her to not stay on her toes for too long, and giving her other mechanical tips so she could clean up her technique.
“Mostly it’s just trying to talk it out, but then I have to get back into focus and back in my zone,” Ward said of her discussions with Keith. “Mostly just trying to talk about it and letting it go after that.”
Now halfway through her high school career, Ward doesn’t plan on getting complacent or slowing down; the new 3A league next year means new competition and more challenges, which is something she said she looks forward to in the following couple years.
“I just know next year that I’m gonna have to try to do the same,” Ward said. “I have to step it up more and more each year.”