By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Alaina Combs is much more confident and experienced this year. That's why the Sherando junior was able to overcome a scratchy start in the discus at the Northwestern District meet last week.
Combs, the Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for May 12-May 18, scratched on her first two throws in the preliminary round, and had to come up with a good throw on her third one just to qualify for the finals -- and she delivered.
Combs' throw of 102-0 was good enough to put her in second place heading into the finals, and after that throw she was back on track.
"She had a lot of self-imposed pressures," Sherando throws coach Mike Marsh said. "She had a lot of high expectations. She put a lot of pressure on herself. I think last year she probably would have struggled with the third throw. I think the confidence and experience this year paid off. That was a big difference from this year to last year. Her confidence took over and she started doing things she could do."
Back on track, Combs went on to win the discus with a top throw of 109-0, and then won the shot put with a throw of 34-06, which was a new PR.
It was the second straight year Combs won the discus and third straight year she won the shot put at districts.
Combs said confidence has been a big key for her.
"I feel like I have such a tremendous amount of confidence this year," Combs said. "It's a good feeling."
Combs doesn't have to look far for competition. Her sister, Allison, and teammate Rachel Dixon both give her plenty of competition.
Dixon was in first place heading into the discus final last week, and Combs said the two have a great relationship with each other.
The trio are the only Group AA throwers that have advanced to regionals.
"We can push each other, but we can still be friends," Combs said. "It's not personal. With the three of us, we can watch each other's footwork and give constructive criticism."
Combs said she prefers the discus over the shot put, but it wasn't until this year that she really started to improve in the discus.
"I like that it's a dance and not just brute force," Combs said. "Then if I get mad at myself because of how I did in the discus, it helps me in the shot put. So, it all kind of intertwines."
The Region II track meet is Wednesday at Fluvanna, and Combs' main goal is to qualify for states in both discus and shot put.
Last year she said she was "nervous and a little cocky," but this year she's going in with a different attitude.
"I feel like coach Marsh has done a great job preparing us for regionals," Combs said. "He sets up practices so that they are just like meets. I'm just really excited for Wednesday. I know it's going to be good competition. I just want to go out and have fun and just try to do the best I can."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org