Commitment Brings New Level of Success to Devildog Throwers

TRAVELERS REST - As the Travelers Rest girl's track and field team clinched its second consecutive region team championship on April 26, it did not take a lot of analysis to see where the Devildogs earned a large amount of their points.

Travelers Rest scored 28 of its team points from its two throwing events as the Devildogs out-distanced Greer for the
Region 2-AAAA Championship. 

The Devildogs hope their throwing success continues Saturday at the
Class AAAA Qualifier at York.

The Devildogs' throwing prowess has become the norm rather than the exception. In the three years that throwing coach Lindsay Baber has been at Travelers Rest, the Devildogs have consistently improved to the point in which they dominated both the local shot put and discus events this year.

At the conference track and field meet, the Devildogs not only swept the top four discus spots, but also won the shot put.

Baber, who currently holds the discus record at the College of Charleston (146-9.5), said she loves to see her throwers win titles, but her goal is a much more regimented one. "My goal each year is not about distance, but rather improvement in technique and strength that will ultimately lead to further distances," Baber said. "We set different individual goals each week and continue to strive for continuous improvement."

The Devildogs have had some success in throwing events in the past. Baber has brought a much more focused approach to building a championship throwing team. Her throwers are showing magnificent growth each year and the hope is that a state championship may be on the not-too distant horizon. "Winning both throwing events in our region says a lot about the commitment that our throwers have in making the Travelers Rest throwing program what it is today," Baber said.

In the Upstate of South Carolina, finding a female athlete that throws the discus over a 100-feet is rare. The Devildogs have had four 100-foot throwers in the last two years and currently have three on this year's team.

Aidan Rohrer finished eighth at the Class AAA State Championship in the discus last year and had a personal best throw of 106 feet, six inches. Rohrer currently is a two-sport athlete at Limestone College. Rohrer plays volleyball and recently finished fifth at the Conference Carolinas Track and Field Championship in the javelin.

Bailey Banks currently holds the Devildogs' top throwing mark with a toss of 110, 5.5 feet, while sophomore Taylor Thornton holds a personal best throw of 103 feet. Junior Sadie McKinney has added a personal best throw of 100 feet, two inches. Banks won the Greenville County and Region 2-AAAA Championship this year, while Thornton won the Region 2-AAA Championship two years ago as an eighth-grader.

Banks is currently
ranked fourth in the discus heading into Saturday's qualifier, while Thornton and McKinney are ranked eighth and 14th, respectively. The top eight throwers from each event will compete at the Class AAAA State Championship at Spring Valley High School on May 12 and 13.

With the youth of these throwers, the sky is the limit for the Devildogs. "I am proud of my four 100-foot discus throwers, but I am more excited for what they may accomplish in their futures," Baber said.

The Devildogs did not only excel in the discus throw this year. Senior
Alivia Waynick turned her second year of throwing into a memorable one. Waynick won the conference shot put title with a throw of 34 feet, one inch. Waynick, who has signed to play golf at Columbia College, enjoys the attitude that comes along with being a thrower. "I throw because I like the intensity and competitiveness of the sport," Waynick said. "I enjoy being able to walk into the ring and give it all I have every time." 

Waynick is currently ranked second in the shot put heading into Saturday's state qualifier. Waynick is the younger sister of
Amber Waynick, who not only threw at Travelers Rest, but became a championship thrower for Columbia College in the hammer throw. 

Finding a top notch thrower is not an easy task. Baber is always on the lookout for a "diamond in the rough". "I have found that the best throwers are not always the biggest, tallest or strongest, but those who work the hardest," Baber said. "Travelers Rest student-athlete throwers work hard in and out of the ring. They are committed and dedicated to being the best they can be and support each other in the process."

McKinney was a new-found recruit that chose to throw for personal reasons as her mother was a thrower in high school. "Then, I realized the personal challenge of working to improve, and I enjoy setting goals, meeting them and setting new goals," McKinney said. "I feel a sense of accomplishment from throwing that I do not find in other places."

Gracen Ledford, who finished fourth in the conference with a discus throw of 90 feet, three inches, joined the track and field team to better herself in other sports. "I joined the track team to stay in shape for basketball," Ledford said. "The best experience I've had throwing would have to be when we swept region." Ledford has signed to play basketball at Bob Jones University. 

At the high school level, the weight room is usually commandeered by the school's football program. Baber has brought a level of intensity to weight-lifting rarely seen in a girl's track and field program. "I believe that weight training is extremely important for all athletes," Baber said. "It helps build strength, power and muscular balance that can help prevent injury."

For most weight-lifting programs, student-athletes can be found doing typical lifts, i.e., the bench press, squat, arm curls and triceps extensions. However, Baber believes in a more Olympic style of lifting. Travelers Rest throwers have become accustomed to completing sets of the power clean, hang clean, jerk and snatch.

"Throwing requires explosive power and Olympic lifts such as the clean, jerk and snatch develop both strength and power," Baber said.

This workout regimen is not just during the track and field season, but year around. "I encourage all Travelers Rest female athletes to lift weights three days a week throughout the school year," Baber said. "Our female athletes are committed to building strength and conditioning while playing multiple sports."

Baber's throwers have learned a lot from their consistent workouts whether in or out of the weight room. "Your work ethic is the most important part in your development as an athlete," Thornton said. "I recommend throwing because it is an easy sport to catch on to. If you listen and learn, you can become a great thrower."

In terms of the next step, Baber wants to see her throwers grow in terms of distance and achievement. In following in her footsteps, several throwers want to compete in college. "I plan to go to a four-year college and to throw," said Banks. "As of right now, I really want to become an elementary school teacher and be a throwing coach."

As the Devildogs "take the ring" Saturday, there is no doubt they will be constantly reminded of their mindset, their technique, and their delivery. In the vocabulary of a thrower, the Devildogs have already devoted a multitude of hours for practice and technique. They will attempt to "put it all together" on Saturday.