Illini relishing one final shot

Illini relishing one final shot

   CHAMPAIGN  So you think lifting weights and tossing the (take your pick) shot put, discus or hammer just about covers the training regimen of a field events thrower?

   Obviously, you''ve never been to one of coach John Baumann''s practices.

   Illinois senior Collinus Newsome has, and she can assure you her sprinting and hurdling teammates aren''t the only Illini being put through an aerobic gauntlet at practice.

   "We have one test where we run eight 200s," the four-time All-America shot putter said, "and between each we have an exercise: 10 situps or 10 pushups or 10 rocket jumps.

   "And you think that would be easy, but it isn''t. By the time you get to that fifth 200, those 10 pushups are pretty hard."

   Not so hard that Newsome isn''t a convert to Baumann''s total fitness approach to throwing. She''s seen the results.

   "I definitely notice a difference," she said. "It''s made me a lot more athletic. A lot of times, people think you''re a thrower and you don''t have to be physically fit. As a thrower, a lot of things come into play. You do have to be physically fit."

   Baumann believes so, although few in his profession take the same tack. Head coach Gary Winckler calls his second-year aide''s approach "pretty eclectic."

   "It''s not very typical," said Baumann, who trained Illini male throwers the same way when he was on Gary Wieneke''s staff from 1993 to ''95. "I just believe the more fit they are, the higher their work capacity can be. And the higher the work capacity, the easier it is to recover from lifting and throwing.

   "It''s the same thing I did with J.D. Teach and Kyle Taylor," Baumann said of the all-time top four performers in UI men''s throwing events, "and those guys threw pretty well."

   Winckler''s a believer.

   "To be a better performer is to have better all-around fitness and address all the bio-motor skills," he said. "I think that''s one thing John has tried to address, training them to be all-around athletes as well as individual-event athletes."

   Newsome got a running start on Baumann''s program when she remained on campus last summer and worked out with other team members. Although the six-time Big Ten shot put champion didn''t expect to be a Marion Jones on the track, she was taken aback by how much ground she needed to make up.

   "All we did was run, no throwing and very little lifting," Newsome said. "For me, it was a very challenging experience because I was always last.

   "But it really helped me coming into the fall with a better attitude about running, and I was in shape."

   Newsome only wishes she''d had a running start on the outdoor season. Having used up her indoor eligibility in 1998, the fifth-year senior competed unattached this winter at a handful of meets.

   Since returning to an Illini uniform this spring, Newsome twice has thrown the shot 50 feet, 51/2 inches. Although that''s the best in the Big Ten this season, it''s hardly up so Newsome''s standards.

   "This year so far has been sort of slow for me," said Newsome, owner of the top five indoor and outdoor shot put performances in UI history. "This year hasn''t gone as well as I would have expected, but we have three more meets, and it''s not over till it''s over."

   The countdown begins Saturday with the Illini Twilight Meet. Besides being the final home meet of Newsome''s UI career, the day will be important to her for another reason: Last week, after lengthy discussions with Baumann and Winckler, she abandoned the spin method of throwing the shot and went back to the glide. Saturday will be her final opportunity using the glide before the May 21-23 Big Ten Championships.

   "I had picked up some bad habits in the spin that were taking a long time to get rid of," said Newsome, who adopted the spin two years ago.

   Said Winckler: "She just never really adapted to it. She hasn''t been able to be real consistent with it."

   Newsome had no reservations about returning to the glide, a method she used her entire career until two years ago. After a couple of practices, the former Junior National champion had the hang of it again.

   "It didn''t take me long to get back to what I was doing, like two days," Newsome said. "And that''s another aspect to being physically fit: If you''re not physically fit, those types of transitions can be pretty hard."

   Another transition: She''s added the hammer throw to a repertoire that also includes the discus.

   Newsome will round out her UI career with the Big Ten meet at Purdue and the NCAA Championships in Boise, Idaho. Win the conference shot put, and the Denver native will be 7 for 8 in such competitions. If it happens, it may be the most satisfying Big Ten title for Newsome. After all, NCAA indoor runner-up Aubrey Schmitt of Minnesota is in the mix, and Indiana has a trio of strong throwers, including St. Joseph-Ogden grad Jennifer Brown.

   "When I came in my freshman year, it was kind of a given that I would win," Newsome said. "It was a given my sophomore year and my junior year. Now the throwing competition is just tremendous. This Big Ten outdoor is going to be a dogfight ... and I thrive on that, knowing that I''m going to have to fight for it."

   One battle Newsome has yet to prevail in is the NCAA Championships. Although she''s earned All-America honors four times, the two-time national prep champion has finished no higher than sixth in national collegiate meets.

   "I''ve not been happy with how I''ve done," Newsome said. "I''ve been in the top six before, but it''s not the same as winning or being in the top three."

   This could be her best chance yet, what with most of the top guns from the 1998 outdoor meet now gone. It would, of course, take matching or surpassing her career best of 53-5.

   "It''s so wide open, you can win it with a 54- or 53-foot throw," Newsome said, "and that''s right where I''m at. That''s part of my excitement."

Later this month, Collinus Newsome will attempt to win her seventh Big Ten title in the shot put. Illini women's track and field athletes who have won at least six conference individual crowns (relays excluded):

Name, Years, Titles, Comment

Tonja Buford-Bailey, 1990-93, 16, If you add relays, she had hand in 25 wins

Celena Mondie-Milner, 1987-90, 10, Won the 200 meters five times indoors and out

Tonya Williams, 1993-96, 10, Earned eight hurdles titles, from 55 to 400

Carmel Corbett, 1992-95, 8, Multi-event standout won three pentathlons

Leticia Beverly, 1986-89, 7, Swept triple and long jump crowns in 1989

Dawn Riley, 1994-94, 6, A four-time champion in the triple jump

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