Male Athlete of the Week: Minor tweaks yield big results for Rams’ Day in conference track meet

Ryan Day

STRASBURG – Strasburg High School’s track and field coaching staff didn’t want junior thrower Ryan Day to reinvent the proverbial wheel. Not this late in the spring, where a poor showing in the discus could mark the end of his season in that event.

With the postseason meets approaching a couple weeks ago, Day – already one of the area’s top performers in the shot put – needed to make some minor adjustments in the discus to bolster his chances at reaching the Group 2A state track and field championships, not a major overhaul of his technique – if needed, that could wait until the offseason. When time came for the Bull Run District and Conference 35 meets, Day was focused on those little things.

“We tweaked the outer edge of the disc being held down, so when I release it it’s like a nice release instead of being pointed up or down,” Day said before practice Monday afternoon. “And I’ve really been focusing on like at the beginning (of the throw) shifting your weight before you turn because when you don’t shift your weight it’s hard to swing your leg like you’re supposed to. So we’ve been making little tweaks. Nothing big though.”

The changes may have been minor, but the results were pretty big for Day in the Conference 35 Championships last Tuesday at Strasburg’s home track. The junior made good on his top seed in the boys shot put by winning the title with a heave of 43 feet, 2 inches, then claimed the conference championship in the discus with a winning throw of 129 feet, 7 inches, a personal best.

Day, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for May 16-22, admitted he was surprised to walk away from the meet with two conference championship medals in hand – especially because of the wet weather, which makes keeping your balance in each of the throwing events a strenuous task – but Rams longtime throws coach Tommy Simmons said he wasn’t quite as shocked to see the junior sweep both events.

“I mean, the discus is a little inconsistent. I just knew he was right up in there and a good day could beat them,” Simmons said. “He’s kind of been the best in the shot all along this year. So no, it didn’t really surprise that he swept both. I didn’t know that he would do it.

“He drives me a little bit crazy,” he added with a laugh, “but hopefully he’s peaking at the right time of the year.”

Day’s tweaks in the discus over the last few weeks are just the latest in a string of changes he has undergone this spring. He entered the season much stronger than he was a year ago as his muscle mass has caught up with his large frame, Day said, and he’s become a consistent participant in weekend workouts with Strasburg assistant coach Michael Mellish, who also coaches Day in the shot put.

“I guess I opened my eyes and realized the weekend practices – as the season came on I started getting better and better, and the weekend practices will help me get even better, so I’ve been trying not to miss one,” said Day, who also takes a weightlifting class with former Rams head track coach and current assistant Glen Proctor, during which Day focuses on explosive exercises like dumbbell bench presses and jump squats.

“I’m almost to the point right now where track is getting in the way of getting in the weight room,” he added.

All of that work has Day in a position to qualify for the state meet for the first time, although he has yet to hit a state-qualifying distance in either of the throwing events this spring. That means Day will need to place in the top six in the shot put and discus at Wednesday’s Region 2A East Championships at East Rockingham High School if he doesn’t meet or exceed the marks of 45-07.50 and 131-02, respectively.

Simmons said Day is “very capable” of qualifying for the state meet in both events – the junior is seeded eighth in the shot and ninth in the discus heading into the regional meet, according to Simmons – and Day said a performance like the one he had in last week’s conference meet provides him with a big confidence boost.

“There is pressure but I try not to focus on it, know what I mean?” Day said. “I just wanna go there and do my best, because I know if I do my best then I will qualify.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com