HAGERSTOWN—Freshmen Paige Shirk and Grant Smith and redshirt sophomore Liz Ross are more than carrying the weight for Hagerstown Community College at the NJCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Lubbock, Texas.
They’re also throwing it.
The three shot putters are the Hawks’ lone representatives at the national meet.
“It’s the first time in HCC history that our national team is all throwers,” said HCC throws coach Matt Peters.
All three compete Friday with the goal of earning Coaches’ All-American status by placing among the top six U.S. citizens.
Ross, a Chambersburg graduate, is seeded third in the women’s shot put with her season-best throw of 44 feet, 7 1/2 inches — a little more than a foot behind top-seeded Jessica Ramsey of South Plains. Shirk, who graduated from Clear Spring last year as an eight-time Maryland Class 1A state champ between the shot put and discus, is seeded ninth at 42-8 1/4.
Smith, a six-time Maryland 1A state champ from Brunswick, is seeded eighth in the men’s competition at 51-0 1/4 — more than 3 feet behind top-seeded Matt Marcoccia of Barton County.
The HCC throwers are confident they can outperform their seedings.
“I’m hoping we pull out a double win,” Smith said. “I’m hoping to light it up.”
“I’m ready to go all out,” Ross said. “I’m going No. 1.”
While she’s changed her technique a bit since high school, Shirk said her approach to the sport hasn’t changed.
“For me, it’s sort of the same,” Shirk said, “because I’ve never really looked at where I was placing, but where my marks are. I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Peters, a 1998 South Hagerstown graduate, is leading by example. After leaving the Rebels, Peters earned NJCAA All-American honors for HCC in the shot put and discus and then NCAA Division II All-American status in the discus for Shippensburg University, where he graduated in 2003.
“I joke with them all the time: ‘Just throw like me, and you’ll win,’” he said.
Peters expects them all to at least contend.
“We’re approaching this meet the same way we do every meet,” he said. “If they’re consistent out there, they’ll all be All-Americans.”
That would be some feat for one school.
“My goal is to turn this into a throwers community as much as it is a runners community,” Peters said.
Earlier this week, seniors Brandon Horning of South Hagerstown and Tyler Smith of North Hagerstown committed to run for HCC next school year. Both earned All-Washington County honors in cross country last fall.