Jenae Linville is used to succeeding as a thrower.

Jenae Linville is used to succeeding as a thrower.

The Lake Center Christian graduate reached the state finals in the shot put and discus as a senior, placing second in the latter and earning a scholarship to Division II Grand Valley State. Little did she know that her first success at the college level would not come in either of the two events that brought her there.

Instead, Linville has made her mark in the hammer throw, where she has become the top-ranked freshman in Division II. Her top throw of 176-7 was enough to qualify for the national championships, but that sort of effort was more than a few feet away when Linville started her hammer-throwing odyssey.

“I had not done it at all (in high school). I toyed with it over the summer, but it’s completely different than shot and discus and it’s a totally different form,” Linville said.

When she first began working with GVSU throws coach Robert Klenk, Linville felt as if she were learning an entirely new sport. Because the hammer throw involves a much larger and multi-part apparatus rather than throwing a discus or shot put ball, there were plenty of nuances to learn.

Linville began throwing the hammer during indoor track season last winter and, after a throw of 157 feet in her first attempt, she gradually improved, building confidence heading into the outdoor season. As she familiarized herself with the event, she found that the hammer throw was actually much better suited to her size and build.

“The hammer involves a lot of speed, being able to work the ball and move your feet very quickly, while shot and discus are a lot more powerful events,” the 5-foot-5 freshman said. “It (hammer) comes more naturally to me, being smaller and not as long as many of the other girls.”

Under Klenk’s direction, Linville has adopted a four-spin throwing method that allows her to generate the necessary speed for her throws. The duo worked on a plethora of footwork drills to make the transition into a new event smoother. Spending more time in the weight room also made an impact, as Linville went from lifting twice a week in high school to spending as many as eight hours a week in the weight room this past winter to build her strength.

“It’s not even comparable,” Linville said with a laugh of her lifting in college compared to high school. “In high school, it wasn’t nearly as intense.”

Her best throw of 176-7 at the Aquinas Twilight Invitational on May 7 earned her the designation as the top Division II freshman in the country in the event and was more than enough to qualify for a spot at the national championships. Reaching that point wasn’t always a certainty in Linville’s mind, but she continued to drill down on the fundamentals and put her trust in her coaches when the results weren’t where she wanted them to be.

“I had no idea that i would have this success that I’ve had and in the fall, I was not throwing near as well as I am now,” Linville said. “Even through the hard times and when you’re throwing and there are down points, you just have to keep working on the techniques, keep being mentally tough and trust in your coach and the lifting program.”

There have been difficult parts of her first year of college, but other than being away from home for the first time, Linville has enjoyed the experience. Success tends to have that sort of effect.

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