Simmons key to success of Strasburg’s throwers

Tommy Simmons

STRASBURG — One school stood out at this year’s Group 2A discus state finals at Radford University — Strasburg.

The Rams had three in the top nine in the girls discus, and two in the top eight in the boys discus. A big reason for Strasburg’s success this year and in the many years past is Strasburg throws coach Tommy Simmons.

The 24-year throws coach said he went to former track and field head coach Glenn Proctor in 1992 and told him he wanted to lead a group, and Proctor suggested throws because they had an opening there. Simmons said he didn’t know a lot about it back then. Clearly, he’s learned a lot along the way.

Simmons, the Northern Virginia Daily’s Girls Track Coach of the Year, said he was very pleased with how the throwers did this year. Rachel Funkhouser finished second (114 feet, 6 inches), while Hannah Keane placed fourth (105-05) and Miley Hupp finished ninth (99-05). They came up just short of having three place in the discus for only the second time during Simmons’ tenure.

“I knew going into the season that we would be pretty good,” Simmons said. “Rachel went to the state meet last year and Hannah just missed it. I was hoping we could get Miley where she would have some success. They performed. If anything, the only surprise was Rachel was even better than I thought she would be. The other two got about where we thought they could go and wanted to and they worked awful hard.”

Simmons said when he first started, he learned a lot on the fly and from reading books, going to clinics and watching videotapes.

“I was lucky to have a couple good throwers early before I probably knew what the heck I was doing,” Simmons said.

He has coached 11 state champions, four in the shot put and seven in the discus, and he said he really loves coaching.

“I just love being around the kids,” Simmons said. “I still have pretty close friendships with a lot of them. The two girls that are still throwing in college, I got to see them. It just makes you feel good that they still keep in contact.”

This season Simmons said he was very happy with how his throwers did at the highest level.

Funkhouser came in as the top seed, but Brunswick’s Accura Morgan threw a 120-09 on her first throw at the state meet. Funkhouser, whose PR this season was a 116-08, was still able to have a solid, consistent day but couldn’t overcome Morgan’s top throw.

“I had prepared her for that a little bit, because I said you know you’ve got the best throw going in but some of them girls down there are awful big,” Simmons said. “Some of them even if they don’t have great technique, every now and then they’re going to throw one. You just hope that it wasn’t that day but it happened for that girl, that day.”

The success of Strasburg’s throwers helped the girls team to a ninth-place finish with 31 points.

Strasburg has had a strong tradition in the throws, and Simmons said he thinks a lot of it is just the athletes seeing the success of the program and wanting to keep it going.

Another strong part of the program is how close and helpful the throwers are with each other.

“I don’t emphasize it. I don’t tell them to be that way,” Simmons said. I do tell them to cheer for each other and watch each other. … [This year’s group] really got along well and like each other. It helps a lot.”

They also like Simmons a lot. After the girls discus was over on the first day of the state meet, they gave Simmons several gifts in appreciation for everything he does.

On the boys side, Simmons had two place in the discus this year even though they were seeded 12th and 14th going into the meet. Sophomore Hunter Riley finished fifth (135-09) and junior Josh Runion was eighth (127-00).

With Funkhouser and Hupp both returning on the girls side, Simmons has plenty to be excited about for next year.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had two underclassmen place before — that’s something to look forward to,” Simmons said. “Another sophomore boy is pretty good. Hunter’s just so powerful, he can get really good. A lot depends on them. I just know that Rachel and Miley’s going to do whatever is necessary to be good next year.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com