March 28, 2007

It's Hammer Time For Record-Breaking Eagle

March 28, 2007

Story and photo by: Brandon Hansen

You don't have to look very far to see one of the bright spots for the Eastern Washington University outdoor track and field season.

Hoping to continue the momentum from a sensational indoor season, senior thrower David Paul is coming off an appearance at the NCAA Track and Field Indoor Championships. He finished 14th in the nation in the weight throw on March 9.

He's also breaking school records left and right, however, he's so good he's been breaking his own records. Coming into the 2007 outdoor season, Paul is poised for a historic tear through the Big Sky Conference in the hammer throw.

"He's going to have his best year," said Marcia Mecklenburg, head EWU women's track coach and throws coach.

Paul earned Big Sky Conference Field Athlete of the Meet at the Big Sky Indoor Championships on Feb. 23-24 when he threw the 35-pound weight throw 69-8 1/2 -- the third highest mark in conference history. He also placed third in the shot put.

The 2002 graduate of Yelm High School (Wash.), has made huge strides since his freshman season. He finished second as a junior in the weight throw and had a season best of 65-5 1/2. As a sophomore, he had a best of 57-0 1/4 and as a freshman his best was 45-8.

In the hammer, he had a school-record toss of 204-5 as a junior last season. His best as a sophomore was 188-1 and as a freshman in 2003 he had a best mark of 147-11.

"Anyone who looked at him coming in from high school knew he was going to be a hammer thrower," said Mecklenburg. "He has the work ethic and the demeanor to improve. It helps keep him from getting totally out of shape when things aren't going his way in practice."

He makes his outdoor debut this week when the Eagles compete in the Al Manuel Invitational in Missoula, Mont., on March 31. Dual meet scoring will be conducted between EWU and Big Sky rivals Montana and Montana State.

"The first meet is a very important meet -- it's really our only head-to-head scoring meet," said Mecklenburg.

Paul and the Eagles got a quick start to spring practices, getting into the swing of things only three days after the Big Sky Indoor Championships.

"Everything is preparing them for the course of the season," said Mecklenburg. "All that is to produce the best performance by the middle of May and June."

Hailing from Yelm, 20 minutes outside of Olympia, Paul wasn't exceedingly big coming out of high school but was recruited heavily by EWU. His high school coach was good friends with Mecklenburg.

And since coming to Cheney, he's been on a meteoric rise in the track world, as he'll be a force in the hammer, discus and shot put. The reason for his success?

"Genetics, obviously," said Mecklenburg.

Eastern Washington will have a chance to showcase Paul and the rest of the track team to the locals here in Cheney on April 5-6 at the 36th Annual Pelluer Invitational Track and Field meet.

"Being able to compete at home is a great, great thing," said Mecklenburg. "They get to sleep in their own beds and throw in their own (throwing) rings."

Believe it or not, even though throwing rings are a standardized size, each one feels different to the athletes. That means that Paul and the rest of the EWU throwers will feel right at home.

"Every ring is different," said Mecklenburg. "Our throwers are used to the Eastern Washington facility and that's a plus."

With both men and women's teams picked to finish fifth in the conference, Paul is looking for another trip to nationals, and to keep the Eagles in contention for a Big Sky Championship.

Paul will have extra incentive to compete well this season, because he's not going to get another chance next year. So he no doubt wants to finish his career at EWU with a bang.

"I think Dave is going to have a great season," said Mecklenburg. "I'll miss him."

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