For Texas throwers, competition breeds success
Feb. 22, 2010
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
In athletics, the adage "competition breeds success" is often used. This saying has been especially true for the Texas shot putters this indoor season.
At the Big 12-SEC-C-USA Challenge in College Station, junior Brandon Drenon, sophomore Jacob Thormaehlen and freshman Hayden Baillio all launched throws over 60 feet, marking the first time Texas has ever had two throwers, much less three, on the same team eclipse the 60-foot mark indoors. The trio had been pushing each other all year to accomplish this goal and from the outset of the Feb. 13 meet, they could sense that something special was happening.
"The last meet at A&M the electricity through that competition was amazing," Baillio, who currently ranks sixth nationally and second in the Big 12, remembered. "Jacob hit the first one at 60-11 and Brandon had been around 59 all day. Brandon got super pumped and he went out there and hit over 60 feet, 60-3. That pumped everyone up more. The whole crowd was into it then. It's just awesome."
Thormaehlen, who is ranked ninth nationally and third in the conference, remembers a similar scene taking place in College Station.
"The last meet when we all hit over 60, it was really exciting," Thormaehlen, a Taft, Texas native, said. "There was a lot of adrenaline between the three of us. I felt like it was just us three out there having our own little meet and competing against each other. It felt great."
With such a talented group, there may be the temptation for some athletes to neglect the team concept. The Longhorn throwers, however, hope to bring out the best in each other to help the team succeed.
"Having a group of guys all in the top 10 performers list at UT, all ranked top 25 in the nation, all over 60 feet allows us to be very confident at competitions," Drenon, who is 19th nationally and fourth in the Big 12, said. "Confidence is very important in order to perform well. I think the confidence we get from each other and consistently performing well has allowed us to excel."
The balance between camaraderie and competition that these three experience each day in training and at competitions is something that most track and field athletes are never able to experience. This unique situation is especially exciting for Baillio, who was a high school student less than one year ago.
"It's crazy fun," Baillio said. "To be somewhere where every guy wants to be just as good as you want to be is a great atmosphere, and it pushes you to get to that next level.
"When I came in from high school, I wasn't sure what kind of teammates I was going to have. Everyone is going to be nice to you on recruiting visits. The first day out of the box, me, Jacob and Brandon clicked and started pushing each other. It's gotten to the point where I've started to not expect anything less than 1-2-3."
Since the throwers spend the better part of each day around each other lifting weights and training, they have developed a strong bond. While they understand that there is a time to be serious in the ring, they like to lighten the mood at times.
"We have a good time out there," Thormaehlen said. "We get in there and laugh about things. I feel like that brings the pressure levels down for everybody and we can go out there and do what we need to do."
"We know when to have fun, and we do, we have a lot of fun," Baillio said. "We'll joke around; we'll dance around at meets. It's great. But, we also know when it's time to get down to business."
Aside from simply enjoying each other's company, the throwers realize that there are other benefits to having a strong friendship with their teammates. Because they experience such a rigorous training schedule, having that friendship can help them go a long way in attaining their goals.
"I think by having a good friendship we're able to hold each other accountable," Drenon said. "We have expectations for each other to be where we're supposed to be on time, whether it be practice or the weight room, and to work hard and put forth the effort."
With the indoor conference championship in Ames, Iowa on the horizon, the throwers' confidence is at an all-time high. They hope to build upon this season's success with a strong showing at the conference meet.
"The coaches have been saying that we need to keep doing what we're doing," Baillio said. "We took 1-2-3 the last four out of five meets. They expect nothing less than that. We don't expect anything less than that. That's what we hope to get, so now we have to go out there and perform."
The high level of competition that the Texas shot putters experience every day is something that is constantly pushing them to improve. They know that if they relax or take one day off that they will fall behind their talented teammates.
"We really push each other to work hard," Drenon said. "It's that competitiveness that drives us to perform better. I think the environment here at UT, and with those guys specifically, has done a lot to motivate me. We're in an environment with people who are very athletically accomplished and driven. Being surrounded by those guys has motivated me to want to work harder. I'm with guys who are consistently pushing me to better myself."
As a result, the group accomplished something that no other throwers have done in school history and they can thank each other for that.