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The Mirror

The student website of Van Nuys High School
Van Nuys, California
The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

Giving it their best shot

The sight of shot put athletes in action sparked a passion within him. Encouraged by his teammates, and with Coach Alejandro Becerra’s welcome, he joined the team.
HEAVE HO Kaisher Barbaran practices releasing the shot put on the school’s practice field. Athletes, part of the track and field team, hurl a 16-pound metal ball as far as they can.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the June. 2023 print edition of The Mirror. This is an uncut version.

As sweat trickles down his face, a heavy metal ball is nestled against his neck. He focuses intently on a white mark in the dirt, a challenging 25 feet away.

His mantra resonates in his mind, a silent chant: Throw it as far as you can… Throw it as far as you can… Throw it as far as you can….

With a tightened grip and unyielding form, he catapults the ball skyward. He watches as it arcs through the air before striking the dirt just short of the white mark.

His teammates whoop and cheer. 

“Every foot and inch matters in this competition,” junior varsity Track & Field team member Kaiser Barbaran said.

This competition is shot put, a classic track and field event. Competitors are positioned within a seven-foot diameter circle, tasked with launching a weighted metal ball, known as a shot put, as far as possible across a dirt landing area. The athlete who flings the shot the furthest takes the win. Distances are meticulously measured with a tape measure.

The clock begins to tick as soon as an athlete’s name is called. They have just 60 seconds to unleash their shot. The shot put must be positioned close to the athlete’s neck, resting on their shoulder. A foul is declared if the shot put sinks below the shoulder, if the athlete leaves before the shot put lands on the ground, or if the shot putlands outside the designated boundaries.

Among the variety of Track & Field events, shot put is unique. It’s distinct from popular events like boys and girls relay, triple jump, and long jump. The shot put team, comprised of only five members, is a smaller, more discreet component of the track and field team.

“Shot put is not all about strength,” Barbaran said. “It’s one of the main parts of the sport but there are other many key factors to keep in mind when doing shot put. Just like other sports, form and fundamentals is a big part of it. Without those two, you won’t be able to throw a shot put as far as you want.”

In addition to strength and form, technique is pivotal. Common approaches include the half spin and glide spin, with Barbaran favoring the latter.

“The half spin doesn’t really help someone throw that far because there’s not enough momentum, so you just stand still and throw the ball,” he said. “The glide throw is much better than the half spin because there’s more momentum and movement in the technique. The key for throwing far is that you have to have lots of momentum, plus strength.”

The half spin technique involves the athlete rotating their right leg around their left foot, pivoting the left leg behind the right to the front of the circle, then spinning and launching the shot put. A glide throw resembles an explosive, exaggerated backward lunge, culminating in the shot’s release.

“Every athlete has their own style of the way they throw the shot put,” varsity Track & Field member Kevin Munoz said. “Some may use their shoulders, some may use their throats.” 

Regardless of the technique employed, the objective remains the same: to achieve greater distances when hurling the shot put. On April 27, facing off against schools like Sylmar, Kennedy, San Fernando, Canoga Park, Panorama, and Reseda High School, Barbaran shattered his own record.

“I try my best to be the best and I take that to the real world by not giving up and reaching for my goals,

— Kevin Munoz

To Barbaran, shot put is one of the more approachable events in track and field.

“It doesn’t really require lots of practice to get a hang of it compared to other events,” Barbaran said. “I feel like anyone can do shot put as long as they know what they’re doing.”

Initially, Barbaran was a novice with no experience or knowledge of the sport. He joined the track team last semester after the football season ended, inspired by his football teammates’ transition to track and field. 

These days, Barbaran can be found practicing shot put with his team each morning before school and during sixth period every school day. If they’re not circling the track for two-mile runs, they’re in the weight room, building strength for their next track meet.

“We’ve been throwing further and further every meet, which is awesome,” he said. “We keep improving our team chemistry and our performance.”

Joining the shot put team in his sophomore year, junior Pedro Perez has found immense enjoyment in the sport. Initially a football player, he sought out another team to join after football season concluded. Shot put caught his attention, and he was quickly smitten.

“I needed something for the off season of football, and shot put seemed fun, so I decided to join,” Perez said. “Once I joined, I found it to be an enjoyable sport and started doing it ever since.” 

Senior Kevin Munoz, a member of the track team since his junior year, echoes Perez’s sentiment, noting the positive impact of this engaging sport.

“Shot put has had a positive effect on me, it has shown me that you can not cheat the sport,” Munoz said. “If you want to be good, you have to be willing to put in the work and sacrifice free time. I have definitely trained with my teammates and we all learn from each other and help each other become the best version of ourselves.”

However, there are moments when Munoz questions his progress.

“There has been a time where I felt like I was not making any progress and I got frustrated, but I pushed through it,” Munoz said.

Barbaran, too, shares such moments of self-doubt.

“I’m always over thinking about what if my throws aren’t good enough or what if i’m the worst one there,” he said.

With support from his former football teammates and experiences from multiple track meets, he has surmounted these hurdles.

“At the end of the day, as long as I’m having fun, there is nothing to worry about,” he said.

The track and field team, including shot put, is guided by Coach Alejandro Becerra. He diligently takes the time to instruct and enhance each athlete’s skills in every event.

“At the start of the season we break down the glide and the spin technique frame by frame. Once the students learn the skill, they work out the upper and lower body to gain strength.” said Becerra

“Even though there are a lot of events happening, he is always there to help us on anything that we are struggling with and help us improve,” junior Pedro Perez said.

Emphasizing the mental toughness required in shot put, Munoz notes that the competitors may be equally dedicated.

“I try my best to be the best and I take that to the real world by not giving up and reaching for my goals,” he said.

The present shot put athletes are keen to see their team grow, encouraging students of all genders to join. They firmly believe in the fun and learning the sport offers.

“There are some kids out there looking for a way out of stress and I hope they can join shot put and use that as a way to grow, in and outside the sport,” Munoz said.


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About the Contributor
Isabel Valles
Isabel Valles, Athletics Editor
Through participating in multiple sports writing competitions, I was able to prove my commitment to the class and was chosen to become sports editor in my second year of journalism. My love for sports writing came around the time my love for sports developed around 6 years ago. Another thing I love about writing about sports is being able to inform and catch up readers about games that they may have missed. Currently I play three sports, flag football, track and field, and basketball. After high school I plan on attending either the University of Pennsylvania or the University of Santa Cruz. My goal for this year as editor is to become a better leader and learn from any mistakes that I might make in the process.
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