The Dynamo Throws Club of Maple Ridge is sending a parade of local shotputters and hammer throwers to U.S. colleges on scholarships, and this summer three of its top girls will be competing for their spot in the Pan American Games.
Natasha Akbarizadeh, Olivia Moriconi and Kaila Butler will be part of Team B.C. at the national junior championships and Pan American Junior Trials, being held in Edmonton next weekend.
Two of them were local high school track stars who have gone on to NCAA scholarships.
Akbarizadeh is the top-ranked thrower heading into the meet, and it’s easy to see why. Training with her teammates at Maple Ridge secondary, she whirls around and launches the hammer, and the heavy steel ball sails like a centre fielder’s throw to gun down a runner at home plate.
“Natasha’s technique is very, very sharp,” observes her coach, Bradley Graham, watching from a lawn chair nearby, and offering critiques and encouragement. “She absolutely puts everything she has into her throws. She’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached.”
The coach puts his athletes through their paces – they launch heavy kettle bells, and pound on truck tires with a sledgehammer. Akbarizadeh gives her best at all of it.
“She’s super explosive, and loves to throw,” said Graham.
Moriconi stands out because she’s a gamer, bringing her best when it counts. She won silver in hammer throw at the youth nationals as a Grade 9, and then won discus as a Grade 11.
“She competes really well,” said Graham. “She prepares well, and she’s a super level-headed kid.”
Physically Moriconi is a classic thrower, with quick feet and coordination that belie her powerful frame.
“A year in a college weight room did her good,” noted Graham.
Moriconi is ranked third heading into the meet.
They both have recently returned from their first seasons competing in the prestigious NCAA for American universities.
Akbarizadeh has improved her personal best my over a metre in her freshman year.
“If she throws like she has been, she should win the meet,” observed Graham.
Those who qualify will compete at the Junior Pan American Games in Edmonton, July 31-Aug. 2.
The Garibaldi grad was a 2014 B.C. high school champion and 2013 national youth champion, and that got her a track scholarship at Gardner Webb University in North Carolina.
“It was a blast,” she said of her first year. “It’s got a small university vibe – you get to know a lot of people, and everyone is so friendly.”
Her college coach has brought her training to a new level. Especially in the weight room. She lives in a third-floor apartment, and her tired legs complain every time they have to ascend the stairs.
But it has paid off. She placed fifth in the conference, and was the only freshman in the top eight. Next year she’s looking to move up, but she’ll have to go from 55 metres up to the 60s to compete with the best.
She’s still working on her fourth turn – she spins around four times, instead of the three
turns she did in high school. She has to nail that technique down.
“It’s another turn to give you more speed, and more energy,” she said
Akbarizadeh is studying psychology, thinking about becoming a high school counsellor, and her grades were just one B off of straight As.
Moriconi, a Pitt Meadows secondary grad, was the 2014 BC high school shot put and discus champion, and the 2013 Canadian Youth Champion in discus. She’ll be throwing both events at the nationals.
Moriconi will be entering her sophomore year at Utah State University. Her freshman year was great, but an ankle injury held her back.
She did hit a personal best in shot put at 13.07m, which is half a meter longer than her previous PB.
And she did really well in school, studying to become a physical therapist.
“I’m excited to go back,” she said. “At first it was tough to be away from home, but I love my coach, I love my teammates – I love everything about it.
Another member of the team who is attending is newcomer, Kaila Butler, a Grade 11 at Terry Fox Secondary, who won silver in the shot put and hammer throw at the 2015 BC High School championships.
Bradley is well known to the high school coaches in the school district, as he works with track athletes who want to specialize in the throwing events.
The throwing team has a culture all its own.
“Our group is small,” says Graham, “but built out of dynamite.”